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Winter Survival Strategies

Amanda Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Certified Therapist

Winter has arrived. Some people love Winter. They feel content in the cold weather, the darkness, and the holiday season. Others don’t notice much of a difference in their moods during Winter. However, some people report a noticeable increase in depression, anxiety, and low energy during the Winter months. If your mood is negatively impacted by the Winter season there are many strategies you can try in order to cope.

Socialize. It’s tempting to spend lots of time in your warm home when temperatures outside are bitterly cold. But hibernating can mean fewer opportunities to socialize, which can contribute to depression. Interacting with other people can drastically improve your mood. After all, we are social creatures. Here are some methods to keep you socializing:

  • Schedule Social Opportunities. Instead of waiting for social opportunities to occur, schedule them consistently. You may be more likely to participate in engagements that are scheduled. Here are some examples of scheduled Winter social activities:
    • Game nights/Trivia Nights/Date nights
    • Volunteering
    • Community Classes
    • Support Groups
    • Afterwork plans with coworkers
    • Meetups or Community Events
  • Be Accountable to Someone. Commit to a social engagement in which others will be negatively impacted if you do not attend. This need to avoid negatively impacting others could be good motivation to stick to social engagements. When we schedule activities, we might at first have every good intention to attend them but might later feel tempted to back out because of our mood, the cold, or the darkness that Winter brings. Try to schedule activities that involve people you do not want to disappoint.

Get Moving. In addition to decreasing your socialization, Winter can also decrease your physical activity. Inactivity can promote fatigue, hypersomnia, depression, and anxiety. You may prefer exercise that is outside, which is difficult to do in the Winter. Also, you may not feel motivated to exercise inside while it is dark outside. Here are some strategies to keep you moving:

  • Move Creatively Indoors. Devise some creative options to get your body moving while you’re in the comfortable indoors. Here are a few suggestions:
    Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.

    • Walk around your office or home during breaks in your day.
    • Engage in a 5 minute cardio exercise (walk or run in place, do jumping jacks, etc.)
    • Walk an entire museum or indoor shopping center.
    • Join a gym – and actually go!
    • Join a weekly exercise class.
    • Dance.
  • Be Accountable to Someone. Just as with socialization, you might be more likely to exercise if there is someone who will be negatively impacted if you do not participate. Here are a few ideas on/for how to be socially accountable regarding your physical activity.
    • Get a “Gym Buddy” and agree to meet at the gym on certain times and days.
    • Engage a coworker to exercise with during breaks at work.
    • Check in on a friend who needs to be more physically active and have them check in with you daily or once a week to report your physical activity.

Mix it Up. If you struggle emotionally in the Winter, the season can feel like it’s dragging on and on. If your daily schedule is consistent, you might be weighed down by your routine. Try mixing it up by trying new things or disrupting your status quo. Here are a few ideas:

  • Wear bright colors or clothing that you wouldn’t normally wear.
  • Listen to a new podcast, read a new book, or watch a different TV show; try something that you wouldn’t normally choose.
  • Make changes to your environment at home or work; introduce new colors, decor, organization, etc.
  • Spend time with new people or reconnect with those you haven’t seen in a while.

Winter can be a tough time for some, but it doesn’t have to be. If you struggle emotionally in the Winter, you may benefit from counseling. Symmetry Counseling provides individual, family, and couples counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at (312) 578-9990 to schedule an appointment.

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