10 Ideas to Combat the Winter Blues
Who’s got a case of the Winter Blues? I just saw an article that referenced “Blue Monday,” and it really hit close to home for me this year. It’s an actual day that’s been defined…
Blue Monday: The Monday-ist Monday that ever Monday-ed.
AKA the third Monday in January*
*I realize this is the day set aside to observe and celebrate Dr. King’s birthday–so this concept even tarnishes that, but maybe celebrating change and reform and looking toward a hopeful future will help?
Personally, I don’t think you can push all of the collective misery of this time of year into one day, but it did make me feel like I’m not so alone in this anguish I’ve been up against.
It’s been almost one month after the “shortest day of the year” (December 21st.) Ohhhh, beloved January. You depressing excuse for a month here in the Chicago area.
Current Status? The vitamin D levels have fallen drastically, the temperatures are often in single digits, the sun has decided to show up only once a week (if at all), the Christmas bills are begging to be paid, and as an extra-fun surprise, everyone’s insurance deductibles start over again–as if we’ve all hit the jackpot. Oh, and it’s tax season. Bleh.
Is it no wonder, that by three weeks in, we’ve all hit a new low?
Are we surprised to find that our New Year resolutions have started to slip, as we dive into the leftover holiday chocolate in an effort to find any happiness at all?
Combine that with the social distancing, pandemic rules in place and Omincron running rampant? The Winter Blues aren’t just a fleeting thought–they’re the reality for many of us, and they take a toll on life.
Combatting the Winter Blues
Is there anything that can be done? Any way to salvage hope? I have *just enough* optimism left in my pinky toe to say, “Yes! We can make it.” How about a list? Who needs a list? I do. I like making them, following them and checking them off. And, after years of managing my own mental health and reading tons self help books, I feel like I have enough oomph to get myself-and maybe one other person–out of this January slump.
#1 Start Your Day Right
There’s not really ONE perfect way to start the day. But, there might be one perfect way for YOU. Think of what the “ideal” morning would look like in your world. Doesn’t it make you feel good when you hit those specific marks? Think of a top 3 or 4. Then, write it down, and try to accomplish it–today. Or start tomorrow. Just do it–make your day start the perfect way for you, and the rest of the day is bound to be better than if you didn’t do it at all.
What does mine look like? Those are my top four if I’m going to have a “feel good” day.
- Finish a project
- Make my bed
- Work out
- Take a shower
I’ve got 4. If I’m going to have any chance of feeling accomplished, I have to complete something for work super early in the morning (quiet + coffee + computer).
I get irritated if I see my bed during the day un-made and messy (plus I like getting into a made bed at night).
Working out for me is really a privilege. I don’t always have time/make time for this one, but I always have a better day when I’ve gotten a workout in.
I realize–the shower does seem like a non-negotiable, but there are definitely days I get through without one. #momlife
What would be on your list? Here’s a few others that I thought of…
- Wake up on time
- Eat a good breakfast
- Put on makeup
- Do your hair
- Submit a grocery order
- Walk the dog
- Tidy up the house
#2 Get Some Sun
Easier said than done, right? As we speak, it’s a balmy 21º outside. But, it’s important to remember how little sun we get this time of year, so be mindful to soak up some rays if and when you can. Take a walk, step outside, open the window coverings and sit in the natural light.
#3 Fake It Till You Make It
One suggestion that you’ve probably heard of is light therapy. Light therapy lamps are one way to bring that evasive winter sunshine back into your life regularly. Another idea is to get a Dawn Simulator, waking you with the natural lighting of the sun, said to sometimes be even more effective that the regular therapy lamps.
#4 Make a List
I realize that not all of us are “list makers,” but hear me out. When you’re living in what seems like your own personal abyss, it can be hard to find your way out without a guide.
In that case, making a list can be the perfect way to deliver ideas to yourself when you’re in the thick of it. Want to get started? This is the general list I used to keep by my bed when I was experiencing *life dread* and the burnout of teaching in my twenties:
- Call a friend to catch up (jot down 3 names)
- Make lunch plans (with who? where?)
- Read a book (titles added)
- Watch a movie (watchlist added)
- Plan game night (or Zoom hangout)
- Start a project (which one needs to be done in your home?)
- Finish a project (even the smallest will boost your mood!)
#5 Get Some Exercise
This is a tough one for many of us. It can be really difficult to drag yourself out of a rut to begin with–and then exercise on top of it. to exercise. Maybe the idea of it adds to the hopelessness you’re already feeling because you don’t know where to start. You NEED a plan. Try out Fitness Blender. It’s a free site that offers a huge range of exercise. You can even choose the amount of time you’d like to spend. So, even if you have 8 minutes, you’ve got enough time to Just. Get. Started.
#6 Tackle Home Organization
If your home environment has started to feel like a hostage situation, organization might be just the ticket out. But, where to start? This is another one where you need a professional guide to be successful. I love the site A Bowl Full of Lemons. Toni is the GURU of home organization, cleaning and budgeting. She has been blogging about this for at least 10 years. She offers a multitude of tips and resources for you to get your act together.
If you still think you need more help, look into well-reviewed professional organizers in your area. I had a very positive experience with a woman in my area last fall. It was great to have an objective person who was simply there to help. And, she had a whole bag of tricks and tips to help me continue.
#7 Put Your Calendar Together
There’s something to be said about having your life feel like it’s headed in the right direction: Put together, organized, planned. When you have aspects of your life set and defined, you’ll feel like you have more control. Grab a simple calendar from Target, or go a bit more elaborate with bullet journaling (my personal fave). Just the act itself will enhance your mood.
Plus, putting together your calendar will let you see when there are open times for planning an experience…
#8 Plan a Vacation or Staycation
Making plans to “do something” has been proven to be even more powerful than taking the trip itself. There’s evidence that planning an itinerary for a trip will boost mental health for 8 weeks prior to the actual vacation. Spring break plans, anyone?
#9 Write It Out
This is different than list-making. Writing is a therapeutic activity, shown to release stressful feelings and soothe emotions. It’s the reason why writing your archenemy a letter, and then promptly destroying that letter, can be an activity for healing.
So, start a journal, grab some loose leaf, set a timer for 5 minutes, and write without stopping. You might be surprised what comes out!
#10 Try Something New
Trying something new is a great way to shift you out of a Winter Blues rut. A new recipe, a hobby, or a skill–think of something you’ve heard about, but have always had excuses not to try. Now is the perfect time. Jump in. And, if you can’t think of anything, I recommend plants. The world needs more crazy plant people.
Winter Blues: Do You Need a Professional?
I didn’t number this one. Maybe this should have been at the top of the list. One of the most important things you can do if you’re experiencing depression, anxiety or general mental health struggles is to talk with your doctor. It won’t be a surprise for them–SO MANY of us are facing these issues. And, if you don’t want to mention it for fear of medication suggestions, please don’t hesitate. Meds aren’t for everyone, and they know that. There are options out there, but starting the conversation is often the hardest. And, if you haven’t had blood tests done in the past year, it’s probably time. Make sure they check your Vitamin D levels, which can be lower this time of year–another factor when it comes to the Winter Blues.
I’ll let you know how my progress is coming along on Instagram. Feel free to reach out to tell me–I’d love to chat about how things are going for you!