Over the last week, winter has done a number on the east coast. From snow storms to ice storms, it’s pretty much safe to say some people are completely over this season. Even now as I look at my deck, this is all that I see:
After this winter is over, I will never complain about the sweltering heat again.
The winter season has a way of doing a number on people emotionally and mentally. The winter blahs are real. But there are a few simple steps that you can take to combat the feeling. PsychCentral offers 5 simple ways to understand and to get a better control of your mental well being during the winter:
1. Better understand your body clock.
For some of us seasonal changes have a dramatic effect on our bodies. For others, it’s a subtle shift, if there’s one at all. This has to do with our circadian rhythms. Our circadian rhythm is essentially an internal body clock. How can you tell if you’ve been affected? If you’re sluggish during the times of the day you used to feel energetic or you’re exhausted when you used to be well rested, the seasonal changes might be affecting you, she said. To reset your clock, on the weekends, when possible, wake up without an alarm so your body gets adequate rest. For some, melatonin supplements might improve sleep, she said. Getting enough sunshine is key. Twenty minutes a day seems to be the magic number, Serani said. You can achieve that by going outside or soaking in the sunshine by a window, she said. Or you can buy a light box, which emits bright artificial light.
2. Keep up regular physical activity.
Depending on where you live, you might want to participate in winter activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice-skating or hockey. But if those aren’t appealing, Solomon said, “even taking a short walk each day or going to an indoor yoga class can help.” Workout DVDs are another option. If you’re not sure what you like, try a variety of activities that sound like fun. Then pay attention to which activities boost your mood and energy levels.
3. Eat a variety of foods.
“Make sure you’re eating a variety of foods, including as many fruits and vegetables as you can,” Ashley Solomon, PsyD, a clinical psychologist said. If fresh produce isn’t available, eat foods that are in season, she said. Also, “Though the colder weather makes us crave sweets and starches, be mindful to keep protein in your diet as a balance,” Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist said. “Protein doesn’t spike your sugar levels, leaving you to feel more satisfied, less irritable and tired than simple carbohydrates and sugars.”
Keep in mind that this isn’t about restricting what you eat or feeling ashamed – or sinful – about eating sugar. (There’s nothing criminal about savoring your favorite desserts.) Rather, it’s about paying attention to how foods affect you, giving your body the nutrients it needs and enjoying what you eat.
As the temps take a nosedive, the last thing you might want to do is leave your house. But try. “Schedule regular contact with friends and family, even if it’s via Skype,” Solomon said. Still, make sure you’re also getting out, she stressed.
5. Pamper yourself.
When you think of treating yourself, what comes to mind? For instance, consider taking fragrant baths, drinking hot tea, reading books, lighting candles or cuddling with a loved one, said Serani, who tends to pamper herself more during the fall and wintertime. “These seasonal things raise dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, feel-good hormones that improve mood,” she said.
Even your environment can play a huge role in your mood, so doing something simple as keeping fresh flowers around, can brighten up the atmosphere. I also learned from my grandmother that the scent from burning cinnamon sticks can help ease stress, helps headaches, and increases alertness.
Thankfully Spring is right around the corner, so the winter blahs will only be around for a few more weeks.