10 Tips for Minding Your
Mental Health this Season
How to Survive the HolidaysDecember 21, 2022
How to Survive the HolidaysDecember 21, 2022
It’s that time of year again: the weather is getting colder and the days are getting darker. During the winter months, many of us can find ourselves with worse moods, lower energy levels, more irritation and struggle to keep up with our usual routines (especially as we near the holiday season).
Partially this can be explained by the fact that our bodies are responding to the lack of light and the colder temperatures. These physiological effects can also combine with excessive stress, draining family dynamics, financial pressures, and unrealistic expectations around festivities.
Maintaining your mental health and overall well-being through the winter months is super important. It’s not necessarily about resisting the seasonal heaviness … more so it’s about showing up for yourself as much and as consistently as possible. This season doesn’t have to be a struggle, especially if you prioritize nurturing yourself and taking extra care.
Here are some tips for finding the light when things get dark.
1. Nourishing Nutrition
It is totally normal that the shifting environment has an impact on our appetite and we may experience cravings for more hearty, grounding meals or favourite comfort foods. This supports the natural process of slowing and resting that is activated during the winter. However, be careful about consistently choosing processed foods and snacks that are high in refined sugar ─ these can actually worsen mood disorders, including depression. Rather than adopting a rigid right/wrong view on foods, aim for nourishment and balance, filling up on whole foods, fruits and vegetables and then really enjoying an indulgence every now and again.
2. Establish a Mindfulness Practise
In case you haven’t seen it splashed all over the headlines, science supports meditation BIG TIME and research shows that a regular mindfulness practise can significantly improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. It doesn’t even have to be a huge time commitment ─ studies indicate that it is more about consistency than time accumulated. Plus, combining a meditation routine with other relaxation techniques like breathwork, visualization or sound therapy can make it even more effective.
3. Exercise Action
Maintaining a regular movement routine and looking after your physical health makes a big difference to how you feel emotionally. Exercise can lift your mood and increase energy levels. That being said, you don’t necessarily have to push your body super hard or expect your training performance to stay identical to how it was during the rest of the year; the key here is really tuning into what type and how much physical activity your body is asking for during the winter months. To keep it interesting, try exploring creative new ways to fit in exercise and keep the body (and mind) strong.
4. Maintaining Social Connections
Nurturing community and strengthening loving connections can be super helpful for riding out the darker times. After all, we’re all in this together when it comes to the winter blues. Carve out dedicated time to connect with your loved ones, and perhaps make an extra effort to gather together and share time with one another… even if it is to just watch Netflix together.
5. Creative Expression/Art Therapy
Write out your feelings in a journal, pick up a new hobby, or start learning a musical instrument. Creative expression can do wonders for shifting the feelings of stagnation and lack of motivation that can build up in the winter. And remember: what you create doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be good! The act of creation itself can be a source of joy and upliftment.
6. Manage Expectations & Set Boundaries
For many, this year in particular is presenting financial challenges and increased pressure when it comes to cost of living. Especially approaching the holidays, where the focus can be on (expensive) gift-giving, it is important to define a realistic budget and realign the focus of the holidays away from consumption and towards togetherness and love. One idea could be to offer personalized presents or acts of kindness as holiday gifts.
7. Get Out(side)
During this season it is important to get as much daylight as possible! Whenever you can, get outside for a walk and soak up that sweet, sweet natural light. Even if you are feeling cozy (and maybe a little lazy) and want to stay indoors, ensuring that you spend some moments outside every day can have a rippling effect on mood. Bonus: consider purchasing a speciality lamp that mimics the natural light spectrum.
8. Reach Out for Help
Seek support if you are struggling, from friends, family or a professional (or all of the above!). Many people have the tendency to introvert when they are not feeling their best, pulling away from those around them and collapsing inwardly. It can be hard to reach out from this place, but isolation can also exacerbate feelings of depression and amplify loneliness. Talking to someone who can deeply listen and empathize can be incredibly helpful.
9. Adopt Therapeutic Tools
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a method of treatment that helps people identify the thought patterns that are negatively influencing their lives. Cognitive reframing is a way of catching these automatic negative thoughts, challenging them and understanding where they came from. Journaling is a great tool for gathering information about these patterns of thoughts and feelings, and meditation can also really help us to become more aware of the draining stories and negative loops that our mind can sometimes settle into. Taking some time everyday to notice the narrative your mind is spinning (and then actively shifting it) can be incredibly supportive for snapping out of the winter blues.
10. Lean into it
This one may sound strange but listen: our bodies are naturally aligned with the cycles of nature ─ in the summer months we tend to have more energy and a greater ability to go outwards and the winter time is really all about slowing down and turning inward. Releasing stories of shame and guilt around this natural hibernation process is a huge key when it comes to recognizing that there is nothing wrong with you for being a little less productive and a little more cozy during these months! Taking care of your mental health is a year-round practice.
If your mental health continues to worsen or feel like it is spiraling out of control contact a professional health care provider to support you.