Feeling gloomy this winter? You’re not alone. During this time of year, it’s common to feel a little blue, lethargic and less social than usual, but this year it is even likelier due to COVID-19. From post-holiday financial stress to coping with modified holidays and–especially if you live in northern climates–adjusting to cold weather and darker days makes many people feel extra gloomy and tired. If you feel tired, easily fatigued or just not feeling up to par this season, here are some tips to follow.
Save some time for yourself! If the whirlwind of holiday activities leaves you spent and feeling a bit empty, recharge your batteries! Participate in activities that you enjoy and leave you feeling whole.
Take stock of the simple joys—they may not come in shiny wrapping paper, but keeping them top of mind can help chase away the blues. A furry friend that nuzzles you no matter what? A book that gives you comfort on a chilly night? A friend who texts you something to make you chuckle?
Increase your exposure to sunlight. Exposure to natural light can help boost serotonin hormone production and lift your mood, help regulate your circadian rhythm (body clock) for better sleeping and waking, and alter your melatonin, the hormone also associated with sleep. Or check out light therapy (brief exposure to artificial light boxes), which may help boost your mood.
Get up and move! Experts often refer to exercise as nature’s antidepressant because it can increase serotonin as well as endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Moderate exercise of at least 30 minutes most days of the week may provide the biggest mood boost. Try walking at a local park, snowshoeing in your backyard, sledding with the kids or streaming a new exercise video.
Stock up on healthy food. The winter blues can send many people to overindulge in comfort foods, such as overly starchy or sweet foods that tend to pack on the pounds. Aim to eat a balanced diet of proteins, whole grains (e.g., brown rice, quinoa) and fruits and vegetables. Studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables were less likely to experience depression and other related conditions.
Sleep, wake and eat on a regular schedule. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to help normalize your circadian rhythms. And eat three meals a day, around the same time every day.
Make a plan to stay connected and excited. Having something on your calendar that you look forward to can help relieve some of the gloominess you may be experiencing. Plan a trip that you hope to take when the COVID-19 situation improves, or a virtual get-together with friends, or any other activity that makes you feel good.
Remember, the winter blues are common, but if self-care measures don’t seem to help lift your mood, or if you have ongoing sadness, talk to your healthcare practitioner.