Our beautiful Canadian winter is here. The sun is rising later, setting earlier, and it is getting colder and colder. Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 still lingering around; and the flu season, we’re apt to spend more time indoors.
Winter months can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. We may find ourselves feeling more irritable, having low energy, or even struggling to do day to day routines.
Maintaining your psychological wellness through winter is important for your overall health, safety and wellness.
Tips to help you beat the winter blues and manage those negative feelings:
- Exercising and going outdoors: Even just getting 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day can boost your energy, help you sleep better and improve your mood. The cold weather doesn’t mean you are stuck inside, so bundle up and go outside to take a walk and get some fresh air and necessary Vitamin D.
- Healthy eating and sleeping habits: Diets high in processed food and refined sugar have been connected to worsening mood disorders, including depression. Try to focus on maintaining a balance, fill up on healthy fruits, vegetables and proteins. While too much sugar can worsen your mood, so can too little sleep. Lack of sleep has been associated with an increased risk of depression and other mental health effects. Maintain a healthy sleep routine. Try going to bed and waking up on a consistent schedule. Avoid electronics in the bedroom or watching television right before bed.
- Stay connected: While it was easier to socialize safely during the warm weather by staying distanced outdoors, you can still find ways to connect. Schedule regular video chats with friends and family, reach out by phone or email or even send a letter in the mail. For some extra fun, plan virtual trivia sessions, movie screenings or other events. It’s important to reach out to your support system and talk with those you trust when you feel like you’re struggling. These interactions -even virtual- can help build up your emotional and psychological resilience.
- Keep up with your other appointments: Taking care of your mental wellness includes taking care of your overall health. Keep up with your regular dental visits, primary care visits and any other ongoing wellness appointments.
- Meditate and be mindful: Try practicing meditation for even just ten minutes a day. Meditating in the morning or before bed can help you start the day on a calm note, or it can clear your mind of the stresses of the day.
- Adopt some CBT practices: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that helps people learn to identify thought patterns that have a negative influence on their behaviour and emotions and how to change those patterns.
Journaling: Document the time of the mood or thought, the source of it, how intense it was and how you reacted.
Cognitive restructuring or reframing: This involves identifying and challenging the negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions you frequently experience. Once identified, you can explore why they took root and learn how to reframe those thoughts so they’re more positive and productive.
Relaxation and stress reduction techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, meditation and imagery can help break the cycle of those negative thought patterns and clear your mind so you can think more rationally and logically.
Behavioral experiments: These are designed to identify the thought patterns that influence your behaviour. Before starting a task that typically makes you anxious, try to predict what would happen then afterward see if the prediction came true. Over time, you will see that the worst-case scenario you were worried about isn’t likely to happen. This helps reduce that initial anxiety and “what if” type of thinking that may keep you from starting or completing those tasks.
Activity scheduling and behaviour activation: When we’re stressed, pleasurable activities are often the first to go. This can be especially true during the winter months when it feels harder to get out of the house and be motivated. Intentionally taking part in activities that you enjoy reduces negative thinking and promotes positive emotions and well-being. Try scheduling the activities you’re likely to put off – going for a walk, working on a hobby, running an errand, or learning a new skill.
7. When to seek medical attention: While these tips can help you manage your mental health through winter months, it’s important to call your doctor if you experience signs such as:
- Feeling depressed most of the day
- Decreased interest or pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy
- Changes in weight and appetite
- Feeling worthless, hopeless, or excessively guilty
- Difficulty concentrating more than usual
- Experiencing strong mood swings
- Thoughts of death, suicide, or harming others
Taking care of your mental health is a year-round practice. The winter doesn’t mean you’re stuck indoors, and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you enjoyed in the warmer months. While you may need to be a little more creative, you can certainly still connect with others and enjoy outside activities, we all need, to stay psychologically healthy and happy.
Last but not least; with the changing of the seasons, we extend our warm wishes and kind greetings!
~ Your PSAC Prairie Region H&S Committee