5 Strategies to Survive the Winter Doldrums
Large parts of the country have been hit hard with winter storms this year. It’s early February and the winter already feels long, cold and confining. When you crave sunshine and warmth but are facing another winter blizzard it’s easy to get stuck in a negative mood.
Keep Your Emotional Equilibrium: It’s easy for important habits and routines to get derailed in the winter months. If you’re confined inside more than usual, you may find yourself indulging in unhealthy foods, sleeping more or less than usual, skipping exercise or letting a cold or virus linger too long before getting it checked out at the Dr. Having balance in your eating and sleeping, while caring for your physical health has an impact on your mental health.
Take a moment to think over your routines. Have you gotten out of healthy habits or into those that are unhealthy? Tackle one at a time and begin to bring them back into balance. Doing so will decrease your vulnerability to negative moods.
Activate Positive Emotions: The first snow can trigger happiness and a sense of wonder, but by the 3rd, 4th or 5th storm, ice, canceled activities and shoveling have often lost their charm. Even if circumstances aren’t exactly as you’d wish them to be, you can increase the positive emotions you experience.
You can start by making a list of what brings you joy or happiness in your life. Include both small and large items. Phone calls with friends, clean sheets, graduating from college and warm apple pie all count. Now schedule those activities (or steps towards achieving goals that will make you happy) into your life. Try to include at least one activity a day that brings you happiness.
Maintain Your Relationships: Are you confined with the same people more than usual? Irritated at a neighbor who leaves an icy sidewalk? It’s easy for tempers to flare when you’ve got extra contact and strain from winter weather. To keep from saying something in anger, keep your goals in mind. You might need to talk to your neighbor about his icy sidewalk, but remember that the goal is to make the sidewalk passable, not make your neighbor feel bad.
Contribute: It can feel great to find that your car was cleaned off by an anonymous stranger or to have a friend call on the way to the grocery store to see if he or she can pick something up for you. Acts of kindness and generosity are appreciated that much more when everyone is feeling a little frayed. Contributing and small gestures of helpfulness can make you feel connected to your community and simply happy for having made someone else feel better.
Focus on the Present: It’s February and no matter what the groundhog has said, it’s looking to be a long winter for much of the country. Instead of wishing the season away and longing for warmer days and summer time, focus on being in the moment and present.
This might mean fully engaging in shoveling snow with both your mind and body, attending to your body and bundling up to keep yourself comfortable or participating in activities that you can’t do in warmer weather, like sledding, skiing or ice skating outdoors.
What do you do to get through the winter? Have any of these or other strategies worked for you?
Photo by Trochej, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
Matta, C. (2011). 5 Strategies to Survive the Winter Doldrums. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 25, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/dbt/2011/02/5-strategies-to-survive-the-winter-doldrums/