OK, so the holidays are over and there’s not a break in sight. You’re staring at the calendar, counting the many monotonous winter days ahead, knowing it will be a long while before spring will rear its head in good old YYC. If you’re anything like us your energy levels generally plummet at this time of year anyway, but for 2021 let’s throw in a year-long global pandemic, increased separation and a ban on many beloved activities and outings and you lay the foundation for a super-sized case of the winter blues.
The winter blues are well known and quite common — the time leading up to Christmas comes packed with anticipation and excitement that can leave you emotionally drained and feeling bereft when it’s all over. Combine that with minimal time in the sunshine (especially if you work in an office or your basement), the cold weather and that fact that you’ve already binge-watched everything of interest on Netflix and it’s no wonder you’re feeling grumpy or out-of-sorts.
So how can we shake ourselves out of our seasonal funk?
Get a light box
There is light at the end of the tunnel…literally! If your outdoor hours are limited during the winter months, a light box might be a worthwhile investment. Light therapy allows you to get exposure to artificial light during the most difficult months by giving off a glow that mimics natural outdoor light. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood.
Staying active increases the production of feel-good chemicals that can help ease negative feelings and brain fog. Research suggests that frequency and consistency of exercising, rather than the duration or intensity, has the most positive effects — therefore you don’t need to run a marathon or start a Crossfit circuit to reap the healing benefits of exercise.
When rays of sunlight appear during the cold, dark months, take advantage. Sleep with curtains and blinds open to absorb glimmers of sunshine in the morning. Break up your workday with an early afternoon walk to soak up some natural vitamin D.
Bundle up and head out – your brain and body will both thank you for it. Bonus points if you can squeeze your workouts in outside. Maybe an early morning stroll or a weekend game of fetch with the dog.
Eat a healthy diet
Everything always comes back to food one way or another. Most people who are feeling glum crave comfort foods — starchy carbs, sweet treats and more — but eating that way will ultimately ensure you’ll just feel worse. Instead, try and focus on good balanced diet. Lots of lean protein, leafy greens and fish will keep hormones in check and boost serotonin levels.
What we are experiencing right now can feel extremely isolating, but one thing to remember is we are all going through it together and there’s comfort in that knowledge. Even though people are prevented from physically getting together, make an effort to reach out frequently to friends and family for virtual coffee chats and dinner dates – never underestimate the mood boosting power of a laugh with a sibling or the cathartic nature of a heart-to-heart with a good pal.