Now that the fun and festivities of the holidays have ended and most of us are back to school/work/some sort of a regular routine, it’s not uncommon to experience changes in mood, increased fatigue, decline in motivation, and the desire to simply hibernate! While we patiently await warmer and longer days, here are a few tips to cope with what some refer to as the “Winter Blues”:
- Move your body. Exercise releases endorphins that can positively impact your mood. Anything from a brisk walk to a yoga session to a more intense workout at the gym while listening to your favourite music. These activities can help boost your energy and improve your state of mind. Do what works for you!
- Light exposure. While it may be cold outside, studies show that soaking in the slightest bit of natural light and sunshine can improve your overall mental health. Try to schedule a few minutes of outdoors time, two to three times per day. You can also consider trying light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a special light box for a minimum of 20 minutes in the morning. Light therapy lamps are available for use at the Healthy Living Annex (3600 McTavish, room 3100) or to borrow from the McGill Library.
- Nourish yourself. Cold weather can lead to craving sugary and starchy foods. While it’s perfectly okay to indulge now and then, balancing your diet with servings of protein and vegetables will ensure that your energy levels are replenished.
- Plan fun activities. Planning things can help you feel better in the present. Positive anticipation is a powerful motivator and can provide a sense of hope and optimism as you imagine a fulfilling future event.
- Seek social support. Loneliness and isolation can worsen the winter blues and feelings of sadness, while social connection counters these undesirable feelings and boosts overall mood. Find ways to spend time with supportive people in your life, whether it’s through phone or video calls, going for walks together or coffee dates.
- Self-compassion. Self-compassion involves being kind to yourself and turning inward; “treating yourself the way you would treat a friend who is having a difficult time". It’s okay to not feel 100% all the time. Being human involves experiencing a range of emotions, including the uncomfortable ones. Acknowledging that it’s okay to feel less motivated, less productive, or sad at times is a good start.
Once again, it’s common to feel a bit down with the shorter, colder, darker days in effect. However, if you notice more profound feelings of hopelessness and/or worthlessness, a significant change in sleep and/or appetite, loss of interest in regular activities, and/or depression that limits normal functioning, consider speaking with a mental health professional.
About the writer:
Lisa Tomlinson is a licensed mental health professional and the Local Wellness Advisor (LWA) for the School of Continuing Studies. She is available to Continuing Studies students for confidential, short-term mental health support and referral to resources. Book an appointment here.