HIH Ask A Therapist: The Winter Blues

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Ask A Therapist
By Soutien Counselling

Q: I often find myself feeling very low in the winter. There are fewer people out and about doing things and I feel lonely as my family is far away. How can I better handle these emotions?
A: Whether or not you get the Winter Blues, winter unquestionably makes us feel a little down. I recommend three practical and powerful ways to help you prevent the winter funk:

  • Stay Connected With Others: People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical wellbeing. Focus on engaging with your support system during these trying times.

  • Engage in Mindfulness: Use the winter as a time to learn to engage your ‘rest and digest’ response (parasympathetic nervous system). A useful way of doing this is by practicing mindful breathing. Research shows that each emotion is tied to a particular type of breath: anger is tied to a short and fast breath and happiness to a deep and slow one. By deepening your breath, breathing into the lower abdomen, and lengthening the exhales, your body automatically relaxes.

  • Celebrate Being Idle. We live in a culture of productivity that makes us feel guilty when we’re not doing something useful. Research, however, shows that our mind can only come up with creative insights when it is in alpha-wave mode, i.e. in an idle, daydream state. By helping you detach and daydream, being idle and carefree will jumpstart your creativity, helping you see things from different perspectives.

Q: When winter comes around, I suddenly feel like I’m struggling to do things that came easily during the summer. The grind feels so much harder now, work runs longer, friends are harder to get in touch with, and all of these holidays mean more effort put into my relationships. Is there a reason things have changed so suddenly? Is it something I’m doing wrong?

A: If seasonal changes are difficult for you, you might feel alone. The truth is that for many people, the transition to fall is tough and the transition to winter is even tougher. Stress, however, is not an inevitability of seasonal changes. It’s a product of the way many of us choose to live; which lends it to change. Some strategies that can help you manage the stress of seasonal changes includes:

  • Make a list of priorities for the season. Don’t give into pressure and, instead, do the things you really enjoy.

  • Get access to plenty of natural light by spending some time outside or getting a sun or happy lamp for your desk.

  • Maintain a regular schedule, even when cold temperatures tempt you to sleep in.

  • Start your own family traditions, particularly if you have a conflict with your family of origin. -

    of healthy foods and get enough sleep.