Helping ourselves through the winter months
Winter can be a challenging time for lots of people, once the clocks go back we have shorter days, the weather is often cold and wet and many individuals report a lower mood and energy levels compared to during longer summer days.
Couple the onset of winter with the challenging and restrictive times that we currently find ourselves in, it is not surprising that we may be dreading the up and coming months and struggling to keep positive.
So how can we survive the winter months and help ourselves to counter the feelings of wanting to hibernate for the rest of this year:
Ensure that you get outdoor natural light - exposure to natural light is so important and will help to boost energy levels and our mood. Try to take a walk first thing in the morning or during your lunch break and combine some activity with being outside. Also where possible keep blinds and curtains open to let in as much light as you can or work by a window during the day.
Be realistic - you might not have the energy or levels of productivity that you have during the summer, but recognise this, accept it and take some pressure of yourself for not feeling like you might have done earlier in the year. And if you have a bad day, don’t worry - tomorrow is another day!
Keep up your social interactions - whilst we may feel more anti-social during short and dark days, keeping connected with friends and family (where it is safe to do so) and via phone or video if we can’t do this is person will help to lift our spirits and keep us connected to others.
Take some Vitamin D supplements - vitamin D helps us to regulate our mood and boosts our immune system and generally we become more deficient in vitamin D in the winter months as we are not getting as much sunlight. Taking supplements can help with improving our mental wellbeing (*though if you are in doubt or have not taken supplements before seek advice from your GP first).
Keep a journal - writing down our thoughts can help to have a positive effect on our mood and help get negative thoughts and feelings off our chest. Try to build into your daily routine some time to write down any thoughts, feelings or concerns as well as what you are still grateful or positive for.
Keep active - exercise has such a positive impact on our health and wellbeing and is always suggested as a way of managing our mental health.
Plan things to look forward to - whilst planning is a little challenging at the moment, you can still plan an evening or weekend activity that you enjoy, that could be watching a film or TV programme that you love, cooking your favourite meal or even writing a list of what you want to do next year when restrictions begin to ease.
Embrace Hygge - Hygge is the Danish concept and feeling of coziness and can include sitting by the fire, wearing big woolly jumpers, lighting candles and drinking warm drinks, all things that are so much more enjoyable in the winter.
Reach out for help - if this time of year is significantly impacting you and your health (and or mental wellbeing) then seek help - this could be through your GP or by reaching out to organisations such as Mind or the Samaritans.
By trying to shift our mindset to positively embrace the winter will help us manage our energy levels and our mood over the next few months. Remember we cannot control the time of year, but we can control what we do and how we can think about winter in a more positive way.
Gemma Carter-Morris, Director of Wellbeing, Next Steps Consulting