The winter blues – how to beat them and feel better

Do you suffer from the winter blues? As the days shorten and the nights draw in, I certainly do at times.

When you leave for work and it’s dark and you come home and it’s dark again, it’s easy to give into the doldrums. As the weather turns colder, you may have to brave the wind, rain, frost and ice to get anywhere.

On top of all that, the germs and viruses arrive in the form of coughs, colds and flu. It’s not surprising many people feel their hearts sinking as the winter blues start to set in.

The winter blues aren’t inevitable

So how can you beat them? As many people stay happy and healthy through the cold season the winter blues aren’t inevitable.

I have never officially been diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). But I know I suffer from the winter blues and what helps me. The fatigue sets in first. I find myself wondering why I am so tired all the time. I get frustrated with myself for how little I am getting done. Then, if I am not careful, I start to feel low and grumpy. I have some strategies that keep the winter blues at bay.

Get outside

We are dog sitting for friends this week. We both miss having dogs and the house we are staying in is fabulous, so it feels like a holiday. Having dogs around is the best excuse to get outside to get some fresh air and daylight. This is exactly what is required to beat the winter blues. It would be so much easier to hide in the office at lunchtime than go out in the cold. But a brisk walk round the block is really helpful. Even without the dogs we try to get as much light as possible at weekends too, taking long walks and tidying up the garden.

I also  ventilate our bedroom, even as the temperature drops. Mr S hates a stuffy bedroom and having the window open a crack makes all the difference.

Exercise

Some kind of exercise is absolutely crucial if you suffer from low mood. I really doesn’t matter what you do, it really works. We like walking and yoga, and Mr S does a lot of swimming. However, if you prefer a run, a martial arts class, football or the gym, now is the time to get into a good exercise routine. If you can do your exercise outside in the daylight, even better! If you are interested in yoga, you can find properly trained teachers on the British Wheel of Yoga website.

Relax

yoga al frescoEasy to say, not so easy to achieve sometimes.  People think relaxation is simply stopping for a bit, maybe watching the TV. This can help if  you are always on the go, but if you are depressed or anxious it is better to have more of a strategy. You can slob in front of the box and still be very tense! When I am feeling low and stressed I do a short yoga practice, followed by some kind of simple breathing or meditation technique. A really simple one is as follows:

Sit quietly somewhere you are comfortable and unlikely to be disturbed. Ideally your spine should be reasonably upright. Close your eyes and watch your breathing. Just allow it to come and go without trying to control it. If you are very tense, you may notice that your exhalation is quite short. You can extend it slightly and bring your mind solely on the breath by counting slowly in for a count of four and counting slowly out for a count of 6. Try to keep your mind on the breath for a minimum of 20 breaths. When it wanders off, as it will to start with, just notice that and bring your focus back to your breath.

This is such a simple practice and takes very little time, although you can do this for several minutes.

I also use a free app called Calm. There are some lovely meditative exercises to work through.

Eat well

Eating well is important any time, but a well balanced diet is really important for good physical and mental health. Cut out as much sugar as possible and eat an absolute minimum 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Increase your intake of B vitamins by swapping from white bread and pasta to wholemeal. This doesn’t have to cost more. You can easily incorporate lots of nutrient packed food into your diet on a budget.

I also always have a high dose vitamin C tablet each day. I swear by this. When all around me are off with coughs and colds, the germs rarely hit me and I have a good immune system. I wait until they have a 3 for 2 offer on and get mine from Boots.

None of the above is anything more than common sense, but it is hard to get going when you already feel down. So start now whilst it is autumn. The clocks go back in the UK next weekend! Begin to look after your mental health before we lose the light and you can beat the winter blues.

If all else fails and you think you have full blown SAD, make sure you see your GP for help. You could also invest Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp for this. I have never tried one but my friend swears by hers. What are your tips to overcome the winter blues?

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6 thoughts on “The winter blues – how to beat them and feel better

  1. All good tips here, Jane. I don’t suffer from winter blues, per se, nor SAD, but I just dislike the dark mornings and evenings, the dullness of the sky (which always seems a nasty, dirty grey much of the early winter and as far as spring). I’m happy once Christmas is ‘done and dusted’. It’s not that I dislike Christmas, either, it’s just the huge fuss that is made of it, all for one day in the year. All the preparations, from now until the 25th December, more than two whole months devoted to one day – it’s utter madness! So once the end of December is here and I can put away the decorations for another year, I’m happier. I know that makes me sound an old grump, and I’m not, truly I’m not. I love Christmas day spent with our family and our little grandson, but it’s all the fuss, which has already started and will just get worse once Hallowe’en has been put to bed! And not only the fuss, but the stress caused by the cost of it – even if we send just a few cards, the cost of postage for some is astronomical. And we do like a real tree, they mightn’t be perfection, as an artificial tree is (nice and regularly shaped) but they are grown specially for Christmas, and it’s fun to bring a real tree into the house, and the smell is wonderful. I can’t imagine Christmas without a real tree, and I don’t care two hoots about the shed needles, they’re soon swept up. In order to afford a real tree I seldom buy any decorations, using what we have, plus greenery from the garden, and fruit and flowers. I don’t need to turn our home into Santas’s grotto.
    Actually, once we’re over the quarter day, the 21st December or thereabouts, I’m much happier. I know we’ve only just started winter (which continues to mid-March) but I know that we’ve passed the shortest day and we can once again look forward to spring (yippee!) I will be out there in the garden, looking for the first spires of the daffodils.
    Both husband and I try to do the things you suggest. Exercise, though, is housework and gardening, washing the car and so forth because if we ‘exercise’ (i.e. gym-type exercise, as one might do when much younger, we’d be totally incapable because of exhaustion to do the chores!) We eat well and getting out means a trip to the supermarket or even just a walk along the sea front, it doesn’t have to be far, just a break so we’re not indoors 24/7.
    I’ve never gone in for yoga or any of this new-fangled mindfulness. I’m too busy reading, writing, thinking – when you are my age, you know time on the planet is limited, you don’t want to become spaced out, ha ha!
    Relaxing at bedtime is essential at any time of the year and I find a pillow mist/spray helps, and I use one with a rose fragrance in summer and a lavender fragrance in winter. This does help aid sleep.
    But overall, very good tips here, Jane.
    Margaret P

  2. Thank you for this wonderful post. SAD is pretty debilitating and your advice is right on point. I suffered from SAD and it took a lot of courage for me to finally see my GP and get SAD under control.

  3. Have lived the most frugal life for the past 8 years, many scoffed, most food yellow sticker, clothes all charity shop. Lodger. No mobile phone .I loathe winter and the cold!. But now my time has come. Mortgage gone , still can,t believe it 14 years early.
    Just back from Cyprus going to Athens on 22 Nov. Decided lodger money is for travel. Will still save 70 percent of my salary. This is not a gloating post more the benefit of living such a frugal life is now benefiting me. Only way I can cope with winter blues is sunshine!. I should have been born in a warm country!.
    Kirriexx

    • That’s brilliant Kirrie I so pleased for you. Now it’s saving for your retirement which will be here in a flash as I know how determined you are. I dislike winter and I’m currently on a ‘get the jobs done’ campaign as I know I definitely suffer with SAD. Jane I think you are right keeping fit and active does help.

  4. Buy a SAD bulb we have a couple in the house,the main living room being one of them. Last years and well worth the £6 i spent on it.

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