As the nights begin to draw in, those who experience the winter blues may feel anxious or panicky about the coming months. Feeling down or depressed in the winter is normal and there are plenty of ways to give yourself some extra support.
What are the Winter Blues?
General feelings of tiredness or lethargy may become apparent as the evenings become darker and the days shorter. Sunlight is very important in helping to regulate our sleep, appetite, temperature and mood. When there is less of it, our bodies start to slow down.
Some people are affected by this process more than others and are sometimes diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, you do not have to be suffering from SAD to experience the winter blues. Some other reasons for feeling depressed during the winter include:
Stress over the holiday season – Christmas can be an enormously stressful time. Some people may feel overwhelmed with how much organisation is required whereas others may feel worried about being alone or with family members they don’t get along with. The worry over this can lead to feelings of sadness or anxiety.
Claustrophobic feelings – Darker evenings can make us feel confined to our houses with less opportunities to get out and about. It can also be difficult for those who have financial concerns and find it much easier to spend time outside during the summer without having to spend money at other locations.
Traumatic past experiences – If an individual has experienced a traumatic event during the winter months, they may feel reminded of it at this time every year. Because the Christmas season can be very pervasive (for example, in advertising), it might feel difficult for the individual to escape the memory.
Feeling dissatisfied with life – As the year draws to a close and the milestone of a new year approaches, it may be difficult for some people to consider their lives and what they have achieved to date. If there are any issues which are unresolved or upsetting, it may feel harder to deal with them at this time of year.
Ways to combat the winter blues
If you have been worried about your mood as the winter approaches, there are several ways to help yourself get through the coming months.
Try to keep to your routine
With shorter days and darker evenings, it can be tempting to retreat indoors more often and only go out when you absolutely need to. Yet this kind of winter hibernation can be detrimental to your emotions. Try to get out to see friends and keep up with your appointments. There are plenty of activities you can do which don’t involve being outside, such as meeting a friend for coffee or joining an evening class.
Get out and about during the day
Being out in the daylight is especially important for the winter blues (particularly if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder). Try to take a walk outside every day, preferably around midday when the sun is at its highest, and make the most of the light.
It might not be the best weather for outdoor activities such as sports or jogging but you can still keep up with an exercise routine. Going to the gym or for a swim at a local pool can do wonders for your mood when the nights begin to draw in.
Avoid stressful activities
For people with SAD, it is not a good idea to plan stressful activities during winter months (such as moving home, changing jobs or doing extensive decorating). Try to plan these activities for the summer months so you can have more time to relax and recover in the winter.
Extend your support network
If you’re struggling to cope, consider joining a support group or counselling to give yourself extra help in the winter months. Your GP may be able to advise you of local services or you can self-refer to a private counsellor or therapist. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can offer you support in identifying patterns in your thoughts, feelings and behaviour and help you develop skills to manage them.
What are your tips for getting through the winter?