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). However, 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.
Luckily, I have found some strategies over the years that help to keep the winter blues at bay.
It is well known that a lack of daylight causes our moods to drop. So as the nights draw in I try to get outside whenever possible. I also sit near the window when I am working in my office.
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. We don’t have them at the moment, so we borrow our friend’s pooches!
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. I used to be stuck in an office all day that had darkened glass. You could barely see out and no natural daylight made it in. Not a very healthy environment. Fifteen minutes outside at lunchtime made a massive difference to my mental well-being and really helped beat the winter blues.
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.
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.
Easy 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 it for several minutes.
I also use a free app called Calm. There are some lovely meditative exercises to work through.
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 lots of people around me are off with coughs and colds, the germs rarely hit me and I have a good immune system. I often wait until they have a 3 for 2 offer on and get mine from Boots, although I am currently using these Lindens time release ones that I bought on Amazon. I think they are good value as they come in a pack of 360, so almost a year’s worth for just over £15.
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 this month! Begin to look after your mental health before we lose the light and you can beat the winter blues.
Ask for help
If all else fails and you think you have full blown SAD, make sure you see your GP for help. You could also invest Lumie Arabica Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD 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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