When winter starts creeping in, it means dark mornings, and darkness is already around by early evening. It’s colder, and we often spend much more time inside. Social engagements are reduced for most people – only Christmas and other big celebrations are carried out by many.
Mental health during these months can be one of the most difficult things to contend with. No matter how prepared you are, there are a couple of things that might help you ditch the day-to-day struggle of seasonal depression (often coupled with regular depression).
Dark mornings and evenings do mean that for many, there are less comfortable hours to do activities like walking. In many places, and for many people walking in the dark – even at 4 pm is a risky thing to do. Yet, we know that there are strong links between being active and reducing how much depression impacts us. It’s not a cure, but when combined with other things, it can make a massive difference.
Working out, doing yoga, and even dancing around the kitchen will give you those much-needed happy hormones that can help combat high-stress levels.
One of the leading contributors to seasonal depression is the lack of sunlight. SAD lamps can help people to regulate their sleeping and waking hours and give them a much-needed dose of ‘sunlight.’ When looking for the right SAD lamp for you, look for one that offers 10,000 lux.
It is recommended that you use your SAD lamp for at least 30 minutes per day. Many people find it beneficial to use the combination of alarm clocks and SAD lamps. They are getting their 30 minutes in the morning.
Winter sun has been more popular in the last few years than ever. Even if the place you choose is a little on the cold side, you can still find somewhere that offers many more hours of daylight than where you currently are. Often the act of getting away can be more than enough to lift a spirit. A few days away can make a huge difference and break up the routine that often feels more oppressive in the winter months.
A couple of places worth checking out for some warmth and sunlight are Barbuda and Antigua – with temperatures that rarely go below 71 degrees F, even in the winter, you are guaranteed to be enjoying some sun, sea, and sand in no time. With fewer tourists around, it is the perfect time to book things like boat excursions or rent your own -: Lots of catamaran charters in Antigua listed here.
Why a boat excursion? Research shows that when we spend time near water, we become happier. Surfing, swimming, sailing, or simply being by the sea has a huge impact on our mental health.
This one can be tricky when you aren’t feeling your best. Waking up in the dark, walking to the bus stop in the rain, it rains all day, walking from work to the bus stop in that rain, and home again in the dark. It sounds pretty bleak – almost like there is nothing really to be thankful for.
But really, the fact the bus is a short walk away, the heater on the bus, the hot cup of coffee or tea when you get home. A warm bed, soft socks, or you can even just be grateful that ‘i could’ve been worse. Making sure that you are checking in on the stuff that makes bad days less bad and good days better can help you get through the hardest days.
Something that happens in the wintertime is that many people retreat inside. And, if you don’t have a partner you live with, or people keeping you company – the loneliness that doesn’t seem to matter in the summer, might start to creep in.
The friends that you would usually talk to and hang out with are probably more than happy to still meet up – even in bad weather. Message a friend and see if they are free for a pizza and a movie, and head out for a walk together with a thermos of coffee.
And above all else, when you aren’t feeling great – let them know. A support network that is around during the rest of the year will still be there in the winter – all you have to do is call on them.
While it is important for us to try and create spaces and routines that can help us through these periods – it is even more important you know when it is time to call in the medical professionals. There are a few things you can do:
- Contact your local GP and go for a chat
- Find online therapy through places like Better Help and talk it out.
If you find yourself feeling depressed more often, feeling sapped for energy, wanting to sleep more often, and you have withdrawn from those around you – it is time to take action. Sometimes talking at the right time can reduce those feelings and help you to get into a better place mentally.
A combination of the tips above, some self-care, and medication might be best for you – while for others, a few days to recharge in the peace of silence and reflection can work wonders. Taking care of your mental health is a year-long thing, but the winter can make it much trickier without some support and a plan.