Maybe you’ve been feeling more tired lately or you’ve started to notice that you’re not as positive as usual. You’re not alone; it just might be a case of the winter blues.
The winter blues (also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD) aren’t much fun and they can ruin an otherwise perfectly good day. But they are a pretty common experience for many people, especially during the darker days of winter.
You might start to feel a bit down or depressed, with a touch of anxiety creeping in. Or you might feel pretty sad about a lot of things, without an obvious cause for feeling that way.
One thing to keep in mind is that this experience can pop up at any time of the year, not just during winter. It’s no fun, but there are some things you can do to help make yourself feel a bit better.
Here are a few tips to help bring a little emotional sunshine back into your life.
1. Rule out any physical issues first
Sometimes depression is more than a seasonal thing and it can pop up at any time during your life. It’s always best to check with your favorite holistic-minded doctor. Make sure that there aren’t any underlying physical issues that could be causing biochemical issues and depression.
Make sure your health is okay, that you’re not lacking any essential nutrients, and that your hormones are all balanced. It’s always a great idea to get a yearly wellness checkup with your doctor just to make sure you’re balanced and healthy.
2. If you’re feeling low on energy, do a food check
It can be hard to get an objective look at your own diet, so plan to do a 3-day food journal. After the three days are up, sit down and check out your nutrition. What have you been eating lately?
If you see sugar sneaking in here and there, you might have found the culprit causing your low energy. Sugar consumption can lead to blood sugar ups and downs, which has a direct impact on your energy levels.
Keep in mind that sugar isn’t just in soda, candy, and cookies either. White, processed carbohydrates are stripped of nutrients and can quickly turn to sugar during digestion. Make sure you are eating lots of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and healthy proteins to keep your energy balanced.
3. Keep moving during the winter and get outside
If you live in a cold climate, it can be really hard to motivate yourself to exercise. Heading out in the snow and icy elements are just not appealing to many.
It’s a good idea to anticipate this and to find alternative ways to keep moving your body during the winter. Find a local yoga class and go every week. Start a morning yoga routine and follow along with your favorite DVD. Join the local gym and do your walking on the treadmill while keeping your mind busy with wellness podcasts. Try out a new class at the gym for variety and fun.
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere warmer, keep heading outside as often as you can. But even if you’re in a cold region, don’t let it hold you back. IAWP Wellness Coach student Susan Lancaster (pictured) lives in chilly Wisconsin and reminds us to get outside and move. “Walking in the sunshine oxygenates your body and it’s a great pick me up,” Lancaster says. Though she adds this word of caution: “Make sure to wrap up so you don’t freeze your buns off!”
Fresh air is important all year round, so it’s a good idea to get outside even in the winter, even though it’s hard. By sitting inside for months at a time, you’ll immediately notice your energy flagging and your mood dropping.
Angie Quist, an active member of Holistic Health & Wellness 360 recommends fun activities you can do outside. “Staying couped up indoors during this beautiful time of year does not do the mind or body any good,” Quist says. She suggests walking your dog or borrowing one, tobogganing with your kids or your friend’s kids, or building a snowman.
It doesn’t have to be a long adventure outside. Put on your warm layers and take even just a short walk around the block. Breathe some fresh air, get those lungs going, and your muscles moving. Once you get home, you’ll notice how much your mood and energy has lifted!
4. Try Light Therapy
Light therapy has helped many winter blues victims turn things around. Even just a few minutes a day in front of a “happy light” can boost your mood and send you on your way. IAWP Certified Wellness Coach Helene Larocque (pictured) recommends starting your day with a morning routine of light therapy. “This has made a huge difference for me,” states Larocque who pairs her light therapy with positive affirmations and a daily workout to keep the winter blues away.
5. Try essential oils
We are sensory beings and scent is an important part of our emotional experience. Essential oils offer a great option for exploring your relationship with scent since they are non-toxic, gentle, and natural. Lately, I’ve been enjoying peppermint and lavender.
Try out a few different essential oils to find out what you like. You’ll probably be drawn to a specific few scents and discover that they can lift your mood and your energy.
6. Incorporate high-quality supplements
Your low energy and dropping moods might have a lot to do with your nutritional intake. Even if you’re eating perfectly, it’s not always possible to get every nutrient that you need to be in excellent health. That’s where supplements come in. I personally always make sure I’m getting at least the basics plus fish oil and, a probiotic but for mood, I add in evening primrose oil. You should talk to a Wellness Coach or other holistic practitioner before you blindly add supplements.
Be sure choose high-quality supplements that are made from whole foods and have a high bioavailability. For dropping energy levels, you could try adding in vitamin B12 and coenzyme Q10. To help improve your sleep (and therefore, your mood), try adding in a good quality magnesium. Since vitamin D is in short supply during the winter, you could also try adding it as a supplement.
7. Take timeout breaks
Stress and anxiety can be overwhelming feelings that lead to more stress and anxiety. This cycle will very quickly result in depression and frustration.
When you start to feel stress or anxiety creep up, take a 5-minute break instead of panicking. Stop piling more items onto your to-do list. Engage in a short mindfulness session that incorporates breathing and meditation.
I’ve decided to lay my yoga mat out in my office right next to my desk. That way I’m reminded to do a few poses in between work to stay grounded.
If you think it would help, you can also create a journal just for those moments that you feel anxious. Get all your frustrations vented out onto paper, then let it go.
IAWP Wellness Coach Student Mary Streit recommends snuggling into a warm blanket with a warm drink and getting caught up on quiet time with that book you’ve been meaning to read. “The trick is to enjoy the moment,” she says. Streit also recommends another great time out break to support your winter blues. “Get grounded by making a snow angel. There is something about being cradled in a bunch of fluffy snow that does the soul good. Again, choose to enjoy the experience.”
8. Don’t go it alone
One of the first instincts that many of us have when we feel down is to go home and hide from others. Do the rest and relaxation that you need, but also know when it’s time to reach out for support.
Check in with your doctor to make sure all is well physically. Then consider reaching out to a coach who can support you. Together, you can address emotional and lifestyle concerns and develop a supplement and eating plan that will help.
Focus on Climbing Out of the Funk
It can be overwhelming to work through seasonal downs and other issues, but you can do it…with support and an intention. Focus on doing one step at a time, systematically integrating something new that will help you feel better. In no time, you’ll realize that your mood has improved along with your overall wellness. And don’t go it alone, get support so you can feel your very best. The world needs you.