While some people thrive in the winter months, the long, dark nights and cold weather can make others wish they could hibernate until spring. Some people even experience a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Whether you have severe symptoms or a general case of the winter blues, managing your mental health can be challenging. Here are some tips.
Though you may feel like curling up on the couch, isolating yourself will further damage your mental health. Make an effort to spend time with friends and family this winter, and consider going out with your colleagues now and then.
Turn off your phone and other devices at night. Spend a few hours outdoors without any technology. Learn to be present in the moment without relying on technological diversions.
Overly processed foods and empty calories can destabilize your blood sugar and contribute to mental health issues. Make a renewed commitment to eating healthier, with a better balance of nutrients. Soups and stews are particularly nourishing at this time of year, and are easy to get down when you don’t feel like eating much.
Move Your Body
All adults should get at least 30 minutes of exercise, at least 5 days a week. But you don’t have to do it all at once. When you feel your mental health starting to spiral down, get up and move around. Even a 5-minute burst will create positive endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals in your brain.
Get Better Sleep
Poor mental health can lead to insomnia, while a lack of sleep can increase your risk for depression and other mood disorders. Break the cycle by improving your sleep hygiene. Invest in a good pillow. Sleep in a dark, cool room. And develop a nighttime routine that cues your brain when it is time to shut down.
Try Light Therapy
Light therapy is a proven treatment for SAD, but it can also help with more general winter blues. The goal is to sit in front of a bright light box (10,000 lux) for 30 minutes or so every morning. This helps to make up for a lack of natural sunshine. You can find a light box online or in many department stores for less than $50. Light therapy is generally considered safe, but check with your doctor if you have any eye diseases or are on medication that causes sensitivity to the sun.
You can generally manage the winter blues on your own. But if you have any signs of a more serious mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, check in with a professional. Mental health conditions are easiest to treat at their earliest stages, before they start to wreak havoc on your life.
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