The holidays can give meaning to the dreary winter months. Even if they cause stress, they might bring comfort as a milestone or something to look forward to. But after the presents have been unwrapped, and the holiday lights go out, the days are still short, the air is still frigid, and snow still blocks the sidewalk. This is the time of year when many of us (especially Midwesterners) are left feeling like we’re just trudging along through the endless cold, waiting for those warm spring days when we can finally be active again. However, you do not have to let the gray outside make you feel blue inside. The weather does not have to dictate motivation, happiness or satisfaction. Read through some of these tips to make it through the post-holiday blues.
- Change Your Perception: Think of winter as a time of inner reflection and self-renewal. This is your preparation time, when you can slow down internally, identify your goals, relax, and plan for your active time outdoors during the warmer months. Imagine this period of time before the flowers begin to bud as a time to rejuvenate and slow down a little – a concept some of us who are always on the go may struggle with.
- Meditation: A great way of achieving calmness and clarity is meditation. If the idea of sitting in silence with your thoughts doesn’t sound appealing to you, you don’t have to meditate that way. Youtube, and the Appstore have plenty of guided meditations where a calming voice will walk you through the meditation. Meditation is a practice, so it takes practice – try just ten minutes every morning before work and you may see some major changes in your stress level.
- Be Mindful: Like meditation, mindfulness is also a practice and takes time to institute it into your daily life. But it’s also very easy to do! Mindfulness is about being objective and aware of what is going on in the moment, rather than being lost in yesterday or tomorrow. A good first practice for mindfulness is making yourself a hot tea. From start to finish take some deep breaths and really take notice of the process – the boiling water, the steeping tea, and finally – the flavor that comes with every sip.
- Stay Social: Call an old friend, or call a new friend, but be sure to call someone! We are social beings and when we are too alone, we tend to lose perspective, or fall into a pattern of isolation. I highly recommend having people over for a game night. It is engaging and an easy way to entertain – especially if you are not a drinker or get overwhelmed making plans. Try cards against humanity or monopoly.
- Self-Care: Since depression is real for many of us and even more pronounced in the winter, make sure to practice the basics of self-care. Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Engage in physical activity – this can be harder in the winter, but it is extremely important for your mind and body. The natural feel good chemicals produced by the body come largely from activity. Yoga, jumping jacks, jump rope, push-ups, leg lifts, lunges and stretching can all be done with little space and do not require expensive or fancy equipment.
- Light: Consider getting a SAD -light lamp. A light lamp mimics natural outdoor light (make sure it’s 10,000 lux) and has been shown in clinical studies to combat or reduce many symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. If anything, make sure to face the windows and absorb some sunlight. Lack of sunlight can cause vitamin D deficiency which in turn may cause a whole host of depressive and other physical symptoms.