by Joanna Rodriguez (Health Psychologist & accredited CBT practitioner)
If you’re going through a bout of winter blues, check out these 13 tips to get some ideas for how to feel better.
1. Keep active and get outside
Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk, in the middle of the day, could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues. So try to be outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.
2. Keep warm
Being cold makes you more down. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).
3. Eat healthily
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Some people also say that taking extra vitamin D helps. Good food sources of vitamin D include oily fish and eggs.
4. Take up a new hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new interest can help to lift mood and give you something new to enjoy. It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on.
Evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. On a basic level, do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues. Favours cost nothing to do, and you’ll feel better. If you want to take this further, then doing regular volunteer work is the next step!
5. Connect with people
A problem shared is a problem halved. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your troubles and help you see things in a different way.
If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help. The activities we do with friends help us relax and we often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems.
It talking thing through with friends and family still doesn’t help, it may be worth you talking to your GP or seeking professional advice. Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) have been proven to help people when they are feeling down or stressed.
6. Face your fears and take control
Don’t avoid the things you find difficult. If you’re feeling a bit down, it’s easy to avoid talking to other people, this can lead to a loss of confidence. If this starts to happen, facing up to these situations will help them become easier.
There’s a solution to any problem. If you always think, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse and mood deteriorate. This can have an impact on your wellbeing. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
7. Have some ‘me time’
The UK workforce works the longest hours in Europe. The extra hours in the workplace mean that people aren’t spending enough time doing things that they really enjoy.
Try setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality “me time” away from work. By earmarking those two days, it means you won’t be tempted to work overtime and will do things that help you unwind which may make you feel more refreshed and revived. Ready to take on life’s challenges.
8. Challenge yourself
Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. That in turn will help you deal with stress.
By constantly challenging yourself you’re being proactive and taking charge of your life. By continuing to learn, you become a more resilient person.
9. Avoid unhealthy habits
Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping.
Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. You need to tackle the cause of your stress.
10. Get into a routine
When people feel blue, they can get into poor sleep patterns, staying up late and sleeping during the day. Try to get up at your normal time and stick to your routine as much as possible.
Not having a routine can also affect your eating and this can also impact on your mood.
11. Work smarter, not harder
Good time management means quality work rather than quantity. Our long-hours culture is a well-known cause of workplace illness. Try to get a work-life balance that suits you.
Working smarter means prioritising and concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference to your work. Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day.
12. Accept the things you can’t change
Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on everything that you do have control over. Taking this perspective can be refreshing and help to alleviate stress, even if it is a very hard perspective to take at times.
13. Be positive
Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful. Write down three things at the end of every day which went well or for which you’re grateful. It’s easy to lose appreciation for the things we have as we focus on the things we don’t have.
By making a conscious effort you can train yourself to see more positives about life. Problems are often a question of perspective. If you change your perspective, you may see your situation from a different point of view, which can help you to feel more positive.
If you would like to learn more about healthy coping strategies and want to be proactive about your mental and emotional support, please call the clinic to book your FREE 20min chat with Jo.