Tips to Manage the Winter Blues

Post written by guest blogger Jenn Wiggins, Wellness Advisor at OITE.

As the colder weather sets in and winter approaches, many people find themselves experiencing the winter blues. Winter blues refers to the saddened mood that can be experienced due to lack of natural sunlight, shifts in melatonin, and shorter days that are associated with this time of year. Symptoms of winter blues include, difficulty sleeping, feeling less social, lack of motivation, struggling to focus and constant fatigue. Winter blues is often associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD); however, the two differ based upon symptom intensity and frequency.

As you read the symptoms listed above, you may have checked off feeling some or all of the symptoms and asked,, “What can I do about it?” We cannot control the winter or make the days longer, but there are strategies that can be helpful in managing these symptoms. Here are five tips to help manage the winter blues.

Maximize Sunlight Exposure

Many people use their evenings to get some fresh air, be active, or enjoy nature. However, with shorter days, the evening leaves us wondering what time it is or where did the day go? With this in mind, it is important to maximize the sunlight that we do have. This can look like building a midday break into your schedule, taking a 15-minute walk in between meetings, or working near a window. Another option is to invest in a sunlamp. Sunlamp options vary in size and price point and provide ultraviolet light that mimics sunlight. These strategies boost Vitamin D and melatonin to help improve mood.

Exercise

Exercising in the winter becomes harder for several reasons. Add the pandemic into the equation and we find ourselves questioning going to the gym, feeling that it is too cold to be outside, or thinking that it is too dark to exercise after work. Exercise has been proven to improve general mood, social wellness and vitality. Exercising in the winter during a pandemic may require flexibility and creativity, but is worth it.

Building a Health Sleep Regimen

Sleep regimens can be crucial for managing our moods and productivity. A good sleep regimen does not mean only getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Rather, it reflects a set of behaviors that support best sleep habits. This can include, evening meditation, eating dinner at least two hours before bed, limiting cellphone or screen use, or utilizing essential oils to help you relax.

Monitor Eating Patterns

What we put into our bodies plays a role in helping us feel energized so eating smart is important. Eating healthy in the winter can be a challenge due to cravings for carbohydrates and holiday treats. When planning meals remember to portion comfort foods, stay hydrated, and consider the balance of the meals that you are having. Other tips to be mindful of are to add Omega 3 fatty acids to your diet, eat more fiber, and diversify the kinds of green vegetables that you eat.

Practice Kindness

Last, but not least, practicing kindness is an important factor in managing our wellness. By being a kind friend to ourselves, we are reminded that each day is a new day for us be better at wellness. Try not to be hard on yourself and get support from trusted folks in your life.

In the event that you are unsure about your mood changes, need help connecting to a therapist or would like support to strategize your wellness, schedule an appointment with an OITE wellness advisor by writing to OITE-wellness@nih.gov.

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