I love the holiday season. The menorahs in the windows, the lights on houses, and the music (not to mention the songs that get stuck in your head). We reflect on the possibilities for the new year and the darkness. Okay, I don’t love the darkness. The darkness is a big culprit in contributing to the winter blues.
The darkness has a way of affecting the mood of many. I often meet with people who experience seasonal depression (also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD). It’s difficult to exercise after work not only because it’s dark, but because it’s cold. You’re spending more time indoors. For people experiencing SAD, they can feel extreme fatigue, lack of motivation, hopeless, depressed, and isolated. Light has a way of lifting the mood and in winter, this is in short supply. So, what can we do to manage the winter blues?
Use the winter months as a time of reflection.
When the hustle and busy of the holiday season dies down, we often have time to slow down. This gives us time to really look at where we are in our lives and what we are moving towards.
Identify how are you feeling?
What are you needing in identifying your feelings? Do you need music that matches the feeling or music that will uplift the mood you are in. Do you need to create a collage of how you would prefer to feel? What are themes that are coming up in your life? Get curious about that.
Engage your senses.
What is the smell of winter? What are some of your favorite tastes? How does the breeze or cold air feel? What can you touch that can create a sense of calm or ease? Some people say that light therapy can be helpful.
I encourage clients to have two journals or 1 journal with two sections. The first is for the positives in your life. What did you notice that was delightful? What do you give yourself credit for? How did you show yourself self-compassion? The second is for challenges. How did you manage difficulties that came up during the day? What thoughts came up that you need to reframe? Did you notice stress in your body and what coping strategies did you use to address this.
Track your mood.
There are apps to do this. If you are in therapy, you can share this with your therapist to process further.
Engage in gratitude.
You might include this in your positives journal. A daily gratitude practice can support our brain in looking for the good around us, rather than focusing on what we don’t have. Our brain is wired to automatically go to the negative. When we give focus to what is working rather than what is not, our brain will thank us.
Create a winter ritual.
Light candles when it starts to get dark (or use those battery powered candles). Take some deep breaths. Have a warm herbal tea at the end of the day.
Connect with others.
Connection is a powerful way to decrease isolation, a big part of depression. Connection can help us feel less alone and get us out of our own heads. You might call a friend, volunteer for a cause that you believe in, or join a group with a hobby you are interested in trying or already enjoy doing. Many of these things don’t have to be done in person.
Having a plan on how to challenge the winter blues can help support you in managing the difficult mood that can creep up. This time of darker days won’t last for forever. It helps to remember that it’s temporary. Remember that you can always contact a mental health professional if you need a little extra help.
If you are looking for support, please contact me for a free 15 minute consultation.
Please note that this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice from a doctor or mental health professional.