Tips to Overcome the Winter Blues

    We just had our first severe cold snap, snow, and grey skies of the winter this past week in Colorado. Every time we arrive at this time of year, I meet with clients who really struggle with the winter blues. While not as debilitating as full-blown, clinical depression, “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD is a very real challenge for many people. It can make you easily irritated, overstressed, and lethargic, while making it close to impossible to muster up any energy for socializing, having fun, or moving forward in your life. It also might leave you with extreme fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, and difficulty fitting into your party jeans.

    Fortunately, there are several things you can do to manage this time of year, not let it take you so low, and even keep moving forward with the good things in your life. In this article, we’ll look at some simple, yet powerful tips to overcome the winter blues. The key is to be proactive and take steps to counter the winter blues before you get in too deep. If it’s too late for that, you can use these tips to pull you out—but it’s easier if you’re proactive before the deep of winter sets in. Don’t let the winter blues sneak up on you.

    Let’s begin with a strategy from one of my long-time clients who suffers from pretty severe SAD. After going through years of barely making it through the winter, she decided that she would plan a week’s vacation for the middle of February in a sunny tropical location. This year, she is taking a cruise. She has also gone whale watching in Mexico and spent a week with a couple close friends in a sunny locale.

    Not only does this give her a break from the weather here in Colorado, but it gives her something to look forward to for the first part of the winter. When she gets back, she can look ahead to a fast approaching spring. Not only does she go somewhere sunny and warm, she does it with friends and she plans fun activities for while they are there.

    Now, if you can’t get away like that, maybe you can bring some bright warmth home to you. Consider sitting in front of a full spectrum light box lamp each morning. Light therapy is highly effective for many people. Invite some friends over for tea in your light room and make it a party. Add a creative activity to get your positive emotions flowing, such as painting, drawing, playing music, dancing, or whatever suits your style. You’ve got a stay-cation from the winter blues without stepping outside of your door.

    When there is a warmer, sunny day, take advantage of it. Get outside and take a walk. There’s no cure for the winter blues like rays of sunshine and exercise. On those days when the weather isn’t conducive, find a way that you enjoy moving and make it a top priority. For more tips on the four types of exercise you need, check out the Holistic Fitness Training Program Quiz (http://www.MindBodyTrainingSecrets.com/free-quiz). The endorphins (positive brain chemicals) from exercising go a long way to elevate your mood and perk up your mind.

    Speaking of your mind—be mindful of what your mind is doing. Be on the lookout for negative interpretations of events and negative self-talk. By monitoring your thoughts, you can catch the ones that bring you down and consciously set them aside. No matter how strong some thoughts may be, it’s a powerful practice to know that “you are not the thoughts you are having” and you have a choice in which ones you entertain. Rather than dwelling on what you’re missing and what you dislike, choose to focus on what you do have, what you can do, and what you love.

    Coupling the last two suggestions, your mind and exercise, together, you might schedule yourself for some mindful exercise, like yoga, t’ai chi, or qigong. These mind-body practices feel good, release stress, boost your energy, and get you in touch with that calm, positive, Core part of you that has a better perspective. Consider enrolling in a group class during the winter months to keep you on a positive track.

    Winter also brings holidays associated with sugary junk foods. While initially tempting, they will crash your energy to even deeper lows. Watch your nibbles, they add up—and sweet nibbles will take your blood sugar on a roller coaster, leaving you off at the bottom. As much as you can, keep fresh veggies and fruits at the center of your diet to keep your cells happy and energized. If you’re going to a holiday event where sugary junk food is likely, don’t go there hungry and thirsty. Eat a healthy snack and drink plenty of water before you go. That way you’re less likely to overindulge on whatever is there.

    On the energy front, watch your sleep habits—too much or too little can exacerbate the blues. The colder temperatures and longer nights of winter make this season a good time to catch up on sleep you may have been lacking. Yet, oversleeping can make you groggy and add to SAD feelings. As a general rule, most adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep. This is crucial for your body to perform recovery operations and your mind to file data and refresh itself.

    If getting to sleep is an issue, make sure you have a good pre-sleep routine. Try not viewing any electronic devices right before bed-time because the light from them stimulates your brain. A warm drink such as chamomile tea or hot milk can help you relax. Reading or meditating right before bed are great sleep-prep rituals as well. A good night’s sleep is set up by being conscious about what you do right before going to bed.

    Remember, don’t let the winter blues sneak up on you. Be conscious and proactive using these tips and others that work well for you.

    — — —

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      3 Responses to “Tips to Overcome the Winter Blues”

      1. Gail Martin says:

        Love the reminder that we are not our thoughts and we can choose to set negative thoughts aside (still practicing) and focus on the positive ones. Thanks for the reminder
        Gail

      2. Dennis Tan says:

        Thank you. I am rather down most time and it’s getting worse as I aged. But just reading what you have always give me that hope and a booster somehow.

        Dennis Tan

        1. Hi Dennis,
          Your body is made to relax and be happy–and it’s good to know that there are a variety of things we can do to facilitate that natural state of well-being.
          Enjoy your practice,
          Kevin

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