By: Katie Murray, MFTC
Living in Colorado, and with the colder winter months approaching, it is important to recognize how the changing seasons can impact your routine and ability to feel motivated. Winter blues are often identified as being symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a pattern of depression that most commonly impacts people during months with colder weather. 7 tips to beat the winter blues will help you ease through this season.
Common symptoms of SAD include feeling low energy, having difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and withdrawing socially from relationships. These are just a few of the common symptoms people with SAD struggle with and there can be unique factors impacting your ability to feel fully functioning. It is important to recognize these symptoms, while also having a personal toolbox of activities to stimulate your brain and body to beat the winter blues. Here are 7 tips to beat the winter blues!
1. Move Your Body
Moving your body assists your mental health by releasing endorphins and relieve stress. Allowing yourself time to take a break from everyday challenges and responsibilities to be intentional with moving your body can help improve your brain health and overall well-being. Moving your body does not have to include an intense workout every day, it could be as much as standing up for two minutes every hour, stretching at your desk in-between phone calls, or even taking a short walk at the start or end of your day. If you need extra motivation during winter months, invite a friend or family member to join you in setting movement goals throughout your day to have someone to keep you accountable.
2. Use Relationships with Others to your Advantage
Social support through all seasons is important for stable mental health, especially during colder months when isolation may feel more persistent. While it can be easy to cancel plans and blame it on the cold weather, scheduling events that you can look forward to will help improve your mood and energy levels. Share these 7 tips to beat the winter blues with your friends and family!
3. Do Things at your Own Pace
With the holiday season being a time and energy-consuming event at the end of the year, life may feel like it is speeding up and causing you to do more throughout your weeks. Being aware of your energy levels and listening to your body can help you manage what events or to-list activities need more or less attention. Build a schedule that makes sense for your routines, while also allowing yourself to incorporate self-care time to relax and feel less stressed.
4. Incorporate Self-Care
- Self-care is often a low priority for individuals who are busy during winter months. When time allows for self-care, it can be difficult to think of activities that may offer more mental and stress-relief. Create a list beforehand to have go-to options to refer to when free time is available. Some ideas could include:
- Watch a show or movie that makes you feel good
- Walk outside for 10 minutes
- Sit in silence and reflect on accomplishments you have achieved in the last month
- Light a candle that makes your space feel comfortable
- Doodle on paper to give your brain a break with an unstructured activity
- Keep a gratitude journal to reflect on things in your life you are grateful for
5. Plan Something to Look Forward To
Does it feel like you are living the same day over and over again? Change up your routine! Planning something to look forward to can increase motivation and productivity levels. You can plan something big like a vacation, or plan something small like going out for pizza instead of cooking at home. Try and plan one event per week that you can engage with to help your weeks feel less robotic and more adventurous. Websites like https://303magazine.com/calendar/ provide weekly lists of events in Denver with a majority being free and family-friendly.
6. Go Outside!
Yes, cold weather can make it harder to want to spend time outside…but being outside for even just a few minutes a day can help your body feel more energetic and awake. On days when the sun is shining, being in the sunshine can help the production of serotonin which will assist in increasing feeling more happy, calm, and focused. Colorado winters provide a wide variety of outdoor activities for people to engage with whether that is participating in winter sports in the mountains or just taking a short hike, there is plenty of options to engage with nature during winter months.
7. Reach out for Support
- Sometimes even with a set plan of how you are going to incorporate self-care into your routines, it can still feel like a challenging task to keep up with. When the winter blues feel like they have taken over, it is okay to reach out for support. There are many readily available resources you can utilize during this time, with some listed below.
- Mental Health Crisis Support: If you are in need of same-day crisis support, call Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) at 303-492-2277 for 24/7 support. Providers will help address your concerns and provide appropriate guidance for next steps moving forward.
- Tell Your Therapist: Your therapist is there to help you when times feel unmanageable. If you feel like your are struggling with winter blues and SAD, letting your therapist know what symptoms you are experiencing is a great starting point.
- Find Support Groups: SAD and winter blues in not uncommon mental states for individuals to struggle with. There are many support groups that can be found online or through your local mental health center that can assist you in finding other individuals who may be struggling with similar symptoms