Getting Through the Colder Months

We’re a few days into the time change. How are you adjusting? For some, losing an hour of daylight in the fall feels natural and is part of the preparation for a few months of hibernation, but for others, the upcoming colder months can completely throw things off and can even lead to an increase in depression and anxiety. For those people, the limited exposure to sunlight, the increase in darkness, the colder temperatures, an upset to the body’s circadian rhythm and perhaps a lonely holiday can be the start of a difficult couple of months. Add to it the worry of how colder months will affect the current pandemic that is surging around the world and many are dreading what’s to come.

If you’re one of those individuals and you’re finding it hard to adjust to the recent time change and the thought of the approaching winter months, try a few of our below suggestions.

Focus on self-care. It can be hard to focus on ourselves, but a little bit of love can go a long way. Include some things in your daily routine that make you feel great. Consider yoga, journaling, long bubble baths and maybe even a living space makeover that is welcoming, comforting and happy.

Do what you can to increase your Vitamin D. When possible, spend at least 15-20 minutes in the sun each day. Talk to your doctor about taking a supplement to get through the winter months. Consume a diet that is rich in Vitamin D, like eggs (with yolk), fortified cereals, mushrooms, milk and orange juice. Consider purchasing a therapeutic lamp that can offer a boost to brain chemicals like serotonin and can encourage a healthy night’s sleep.

Listen to your body. As if the pandemic isn’t enough to disrupt sleep routines, the time change literally throws off the body’s circadian rhythm that tells us when it’s time to get up and when to go to sleep. This is an incredible adjustment! You may feel tired earlier and find yourself wanting to crawl under the covers an hour or two before you would during the spring and summer months, but that means you’ll probably rise a bit earlier, too, since the sun is brighter earlier. Listening to your body’s needs and adjusting your sleep routine while still maintaining 7-9 hours of shut-eye each night can help the adjustment feel like less of a battle.

Get moving. If you are used to running, hiking, swimming and biking after work or school, but the earlier darkness prevents you from enjoying an outdoor workout, plan to get your physical fitness indoors in fun and exciting ways. If it’s people you enjoy, purchase a gym membership for the winter months that provides access to equipment, other people and possibly a pool or make an investment on some personal machines for the home, such as an interactive bike or explore some of the apps available through smart devices. Exercising helps burn off excess chemicals that lead to depression and anxiety and can help you commit to some of the above, like getting enough sleep each night.

Communicate. If you live alone, be sure to reach out to others during the colder months, whether it’s through Zoom or for a socially-distanced cup of coffee. If you live with others, carve out some time to share thoughts and feelings. Share a meal together or plan a game night. Keeping the communication going can help you release some of those negative thoughts, while allowing the other person to have a better understanding of how to address your wants and needs. And, of course, having an open, honest conversation with the doctor if depression gets overwhelming or you’re having thoughts of suicide can help you find effective and unique ways to overcome what seems like an impossible situation.