We’re in it again, that time between New Years and spring when the days and weeks can feel endless and depressingly monotonous. For many, this time of year is challenging.
After the excitement and hope of the holidays, the winter is unfortunately characterized by less daylight hours and frequent rain. In addition to that, there aren’t many holidays during this time and therefore not much to look forward to.
And these factors are further compounded by the pandemic and fewer opportunities for safe, indoor, social activities. All of this leaves many people feeling down, if not clinically depressed.
There are things that can help make winter more manageable, and I would encourage you to try some:
Get creative about getting vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for mood, and less daylight hours and more rainy days make this difficult. First, if it’s not raining, even if it’s overcast, try to make a point to get outside for at least 10-15 minutes. You can still get vitamin D on cloudy days.
It’s even more helpful if you can combine your outdoor time with exercise, such as walking. When I worked at a past job, I couldn’t get home until after sunset so I would either walk around the block for about 10-15 min during my lunch break or arrange to meet a friend near to my office to get in a walk while it was still daylight. If that’s not an option or your work space doesn’t have a window, you can invest in an artificial light lamp that you keep on your desk.
Many people with Seasonal Affective Disorder find these helpful to boost their mood. Finally, you can reach out to your physician or psychiatrist about getting bloodwork done to check your vitamin levels. If you’re low, they may recommend you take specific supplements.
Create a bucket list. While the holidays have passed and summer is months away, that doesn’t mean there aren’t enjoyable activities that you can look forward to now. Create a list of enjoyable activities you could do over the next couple months and actually schedule them on your calendar. They don’t need to be large events. Enjoy a good fire or bubble bath? Wanted to watch that new movie released? Put it on the calendar! The goal is to have something fun on the horizon.
Embrace the weather with friends. After living in Colorado for several years, I learned that the key to dealing with cold weather is leaning into it. If you are comfortable gathering with others outdoors, don’t let the cold deter you. Lean into the cooler temperatures by bundling up, drinking hot cider or hot chocolate, sitting near a fire pit if you have one, or if you don’t mind the jury-rigged vibe, a space heater and an extension cord can do the trick. The important thing is to combat isolation by finding safe ways to socialize, even if it’s more complicated during this time.
Finally, talk to your prescribing physician. If you’re already taking medication for depression or another mental health condition, it might be helpful to discuss with your doctor whether a change in dosage would be helpful during winter months. I’ve worked with several clients whose psychiatrists prescribed a different dose for winter. As a reminder, never change the dosage of your medications without the green light from your physician.
While this season can be difficult, looking for opportunities to incorporate some of these strategies can help you prevent or recover from a post-holiday slump!
Written by: Melanie Ross