Many people love winter. They adore the cosy feeling of wrapping up warm, snuggling up inside, seeing their breath on those crisp frosty mornings and drinking endless cups of tea or hot chocolate.
But for many others, winter is a season to be dreaded. The shorter, darker days just leave them feeling sluggish, distracted and irritated and they can even suffer with a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
If you too struggle with your mental health during the winter and you’re looking for some wellness tips to help you get through, keep reading. We’ve gathered together 10 tips that can help.
Get an early night
Why? Sleep is one of the best ways to boost your mental health and improve your overall mood. It’s when our bodies can rest and repair, when we fight off illness and when our brains get a well-deserved break from everyday stress and worry. Yet many of us don’t get the sleep we need and end up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and even more stressed than we did before. Get more sleep and your body will be better able to cope with whatever life throws at you.
How? Aim to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Turn off your devices at least an hour before bed and relax.
Avoid too much coffee and tea
Why? Caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks cause your body to release more of the stress hormone, cortisol. Although that initial ‘hit’ might feel great at first, it can potentially worsen any symptoms of chronic stress and leave you feeling jittery and anxious. It can also disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycles and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night.
How? Don’t panic if you love your mid-morning coffee or tea- the occasional cup should be fine. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. Switch to low caffeine or caffeine free alternatives instead such as herbal tea, fruit tea, rooibos or water.
Eat mood-friendly foods
Why? If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, you might find yourself turning to comfort foods or junk foods or even forgetting to eat altogether. However, if you want to feel well, you need to be getting the right nutrients from your food. It’s nicknamed the mood-food connection. Eat right and you’ll give your body the TLC it needs to get through these difficult times.
How? Easy. Fill up your plate with plenty of fruits and veggies such as crunchy carrots, juicy tomatoes and tender butternut squash. Cook from scratch as often as you can. Be sure to include healthy sources of protein and fat. And avoid high-sugar, high-fat, highly processed foods at all costs.
Why? Exercise can make an enormous difference if you’re struggling with mental health problems. It gets those feel-good endorphins going, boosts your circulation, raises your self-esteem and can help you gain a real sense of achievement, as well as improving your overall health and fitness.
How? Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week if you can. Aim to include whole-body strength exercises at least twice per week and avoid sitting for long periods.
Why? Even if you don’t feel like it, keeping up with your regular grooming habits and giving yourself a treat can make a big difference. You’ll feel more in control of your life and feel better in your own skin.
How? Make sure you shower regularly, brush your hair and get dressed, even if you’re not going outside of the house. Do your nails, get your hair cut, enjoy a long hot bath, apply moisturiser over your body or whatever else leaves you feeling good.
Do something you love every day
Why? We spend so much of our lives running around doing things for other people that we often forget to take care of ourselves. We neglect our own needs and end up burnt out and resentful. Bring that joy back to your life by finding something that you love doing and enjoying it every day.
How? Find time every day to do something that you love, whether that’s reading a chapter of your favourite novel, working on your latest craft project, pottering in the garden or dancing around to the latest tunes. What do you love to do?
Explore something new
Why? Discovering a new topic or learning a new skill is an extremely rewarding experience that can stimulate your brain, help you feel more motivated and leave you feeling more positive about the future. The results aren’t always instant but can make a big difference over the long-term.
How? What have you always wanted to learn or explore? How could you bring that into your everyday life?
Why? Putting your thoughts onto paper is a well-known therapy technique that can help you work through how you feel on an emotional and psychological level. It can help you release the anxiety, stress or frustration in a safe space that is free from judgement and allow you to problem solve, be creative, daydream or simply enjoy the process of recording your daily life.
How? Find something to write with, find a quiet space and start writing. It’s as simple as that. You can use a specially designed notebook, open a document on your computer or even try video journaling if you want. Find what works for you. [For more journaling tips, read our blog post, “How Journaling Could Help You Get Through The Winter”.]
Reach out to others
Why? Picking up the phone for a chat with a friend or loved one has long been a great way to alleviate stress, stay in touch and seek help and support. But did you know that it also causes your brain to release more of the brain chemical, oxytocin? This chemical can potentially change the way emotions are processed in the brains of people suffering from chronic depression, offering good potential as a treatment for the disorder.
How? Make an effort to stay in touch with those you care about, even if you can’t bear social interaction right now. Pick up the phone, send them an instant message or even drop them an email. You’ll notice a difference.
Why? Modern life can leave us feeling like we’re on the go 24 hours a day. Although this stimulation can be exciting and healthy in small doses, you must balance it with relaxation if you want to avoid getting burnt out. By finding ways to disconnect and unwind, you’ll feel calmer and more relaxed, you’ll have more ‘brain space’ to think everything through and you’ll find it easier to tackle any mental health issues you’re living with.
How? Great ways to relax include mindfulness meditation, yoga, listening to music, having a warm bath, going for a walk in the woods and reading your favourite book.
Ask for help
Why? If you’re struggling with how you feel, it’s important not to battle it alone. Reach out to someone and you can get the help, support and guidance you need, whether that’s simply a shoulder to cry on or professional help.
How? Open up to someone you can trust, whether that’s a friend, a family member, a medical professional, the mental health charity, MIND or even a member of staff at Whitworth. We’re always here to help.
By focusing more closely on self-care and making some simple lifestyle changes, you can improve your mood and better manage any mental health problems that you’re experiencing. Get more sleep, eat well, do more of what you love and reach out for help. It will make a difference.
Here at Whitworth, we care about your mental health just as much as your physical health. If you need support to feel better, contact your local branch today.