Cold hands, warm hearts: Keeping the winter blues at bay

Posted by Fiona Gavine on the 15th December 2017

By Rebecca Pfister. Young Persons’ Counsellor at One Allan Park Wellbeing Clinic

If you are suffering from symptoms like these, contact us.

It’s that time of year again when gifts need to be bought, cards need to be written, dinners need to be had and Christmas trees need to be decorated. Family, food and the festive cheer add a different quality to the dark long days. After all there are lights, Christmas carols and mince pies to be had. For many of us it’s a frantic time but one that can be filled with much warmth and happiness too.

The shortest day of the year (December 22nd) marks the turning towards spring and days will start to get longer as we approach spring. However, January and February can be difficult months for many of us without having the festivities to look forward to. However, those few months are the perfect time to look after oneself, and the sooner you start, the better!

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD affects 8% of the British population. Sufferers experience low mood, problems with sleep and low energy. A further 21% of the British population experience milder forms of the condition also known as the winter blues. 80% of SAD sufferers are women, particularly those in early adulthood. Even if you are not experiencing  SAD, taking care of yourself and your emotional health over the winter months is important for overall emotional wellbeing. Here are ten tips on how to get through winter with vitality and a positivity.

Run for it

Exercise has been hailed a champion when fighting against depression with 25 studies in as many years confirming that exercise can prevent and treat symptoms of low mood and depression.

You might be into running or weight lifting. Or you might enjoy gentle walks or swimming. Wintertime is also a great time to discover new hobbies – ever thought of trying bouldering or kickboxing? Or how about taking your neighbours dog for a walk? How about listening to an upbeat album and dancing around your living room?

More veggies, fewer yule logs

With all of the delicious (and usually unhealthy) foods available over the festive period, it is easy to lose sight of healthy eating habits whilst gaining a few pounds in the process. Fuelling your body with healthy foods is important for both you physical and mental wellbeing. Being mindful of what and how much you are eating might help reminding you that you don’t really want any more pigs in blankets.

Be kind to yourself

Many of us forget to take care of ourselves, especially if we are busy with social commitments on top of the usual life stresses. It’s important to take time for yourself to help you relax. You might want to have a bubble bath, splurge on a massage, visit your local sauna or steam room. If you can’t be bothered to leave the house, how about a delicious hot chocolate whilst watching your favourite film?

Let there be light

Being outdoors in natural daylight as long as possible is highly recommended during the winter months. If we don’t receive enough natural light we are more susceptible to lack of sleep, insomnia and mood swings. A walk during your lunch break or getting a happy lamp might just do the trick. A holiday to somewhere warm and sunny is also a good idea.

Talk it through

It’s good to talk about difficult feelings with someone else such as a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes, however, it is easier to talk to someone who is impartial and who gives you their undivided attention. Talking therapy provides you with a confidential space to explore issues in a safe environment and might help you to work through some of the difficulties that might be affecting you this winter.

Drink more water

It is almost impossible to escape alcoholic beverages during winter – there are too many temptations and opportunities to drink. Alcohol in excess, however, affects the central nervous system and can cause low mood and depression. Drinking more water and non-caffeinated beverages such as herbal teas and hot lemon are a better option if you want to feel less lethargic. Winter time is also the perfect season for a detox to give your liver and mind a break.

Winter vitamins

Supplementing with vitamins is important all year around, but especially during colder months as our bodies are affected by the change in weather and the lack of nutrients we usually receive from sunlight.

Vitamin D is highly important as it helps the body absorb calcium and and phosphate from our diet, and has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms in individuals with SAD. B Complex vitamins are also important for your mood and energy levels. St John’s Wort is a traditional medicine used to treat mild depressive symptoms. It is advised to consult a GP before taking any supplements as St John’s Wort can have adverse effects with other medications.

How to help your child/adolescent beat the winter blues

You can help your child or teenager to feel better during the cold months, too. By finding a sport that they enjoy such as swimming or gymnastics, by cooking yummy healthy foods, by spending time with them and being interested in them, by going on family walks in nature and offering healthy alternatives to fizzy drinks or sugary juices. If your child and/or young person seems to be really struggling over a prolonged period of time however, it is always a good idea to consult a professional such as the GP or a counsellor.

You might want to try all or just some of the tips from this article this winter. No matter what you do, make the most out of the season as it is the perfect time for forming new habits for the year to come.

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