You are the sky...Everything else, it's just the weather. ~ Pema Chodron
Winter, with its shorter, colder and darker days, can give rise to occasional feelings of sluggishness, low mood, or Winter Blues. Below are some simple strategies you can use to help these occasional feelings.
- Try to have regular sleeping patterns. As you feel down, the urge to escape everything by just staying in bed can become stronger. Try to resist this (unless you are genuinely physically tired) as it can make things harder to deal with.
- Try to have a plan of what you need to do day-to-day and week-to-week. Make it realistic and review it regularly. Use it to check your progress.
- Keep in contact with your friends and loved ones. Cultivate relationships that are close and supportive. If your family is supportive, try to tell them how you feel. Remember you are not alone. Consider the advice and help that others might try to give you as a positive thing in your life.
- Remember to do some of the things that you have enjoyed doing in the past. Reading, movies exercise, playing sport, spending time with friends, getting back to nature, etc. What works for you is what is most important. Sometimes just having a routine to follow can give you a sense of structure in your life.
- Practice ways to distract yourself away from negative patterns of thought. Activity and getting out of the house are good in this respect.
- Negative thoughts can generate feelings of anxiety. Learning relaxation techniques can help a great deal. A therapist can help you to learn a variety of physical and mental relaxation techniques that will be useful for you in the future.
- Try to explore the way you are feeling. If you can recognize your emotions, talk about them with friends, and/or with a therapist. Write them down, and see how they may relate to your own thinking about yourself or to things that happen in your life. By doing so, you can avoid them controlling you. Then you can begin to get some control back in your life.
- Think of things that have helped in the past, if you've experienced the Blues before. Write these things down and remind yourself to keep using them. Allow yourself the time for them to have an effect.
- Daily exercise and a nutritious diet are important. If your appetite is low, try nutritious smoothies or juices - a liquid diet can be easier to manage if you are prone to gastrointestinal stress.
- Don't be passive and allow your mood to take over, if you can help it. Make some plans for each day.
- Try to avoid falling into the trap of "automatic negative thinking". Identify your negative thoughts, learn to monitor them and learn to challenge them. (i.e., look for evidence to support your negative thoughts or assumptions about yourself). Then you can begin to substitute more positive and therefore more useful patterns of thought. Try writing these things down in a notebook. A therapist can help you to develop this approach so that you can be more realistic about those things in your life that are positive. Click here to learn more about strategies for negative thoughts.
- Don't overindulge on alcohol. It’s a central nervous system depressant and it may make your blues worse.
What distinguishes occasional Winter Blues from Clinical Depression? Check these symptoms of depression or read information about depression. If you check 5 or more of these symptoms for 2 weeks or more, please talk to a mental health or medical professional.
- Frequently feeling sad and/or guilty
- Eating more or less (including significant weight loss)
- Sleeping more or less
- Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
- Low energy, fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Thoughts about death and suicide
While the above signs are more common, everyone is different. The following may also indicate depression for some people:
- Increased use of alcohol and drugs
- Difficulty envisioning a hopeful future
- Increased aches, pains, or bodily ailments
Seeking appropriate mental health care for depression is important and possibly life-saving. Please contact a licensed mental health professional if you are concerned about depression in yourself or a loved one.