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7 Strategies To Deal With The Winter Blues NOW, Before Winter Begins

Dirt Road with Maple Trees in Winter SunriseFor those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting shorter and darker. Snow flakes, fireplaces, and cozy sweaters will be making their appearances in the near future.

For some, it’s a time of growing darkness and despair.

Every year we blog about Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as it is commonly known, but it doesn’t take a formal diagnosis to know if you have the Winter Blues, the name we prefer for milder bouts of winter depression due to less sunlight hours.

In addition to other symptoms of depression, symptoms of SAD and Winter Blues officially include:

Less energy.

Trouble concentrating.

Fatigue.

Greater appetite.

Increased desire to be alone.

Greater need for sleep.

Weight gain.

I’d add:

Anxiety, Worry, and Unexplained Fears.

Irritability.

Feelings of “Bleakness” or Despair that come and go, usually getting worse at dusk.

But symptoms can be highly individual and one person could have less of an appetite, another might be more prone to abuse alcohol or drugs during the winter months, and so on.

To prepare for the Winter Blues, some strategies I recommend include:

1. Replace your regular light bulbs with full-spectrum bulbs, especially in the kitchen, family room, office–places where you spend the most early to mid-evening hours. (Bedroom lights should be able to be dimmed as needed around bedtime.)

2. Make sure your Vitamin D levels are high enough, you can ask your physician to test them. Also consider supplementing with a good-quality B complex, and trying an Omega 3 supplement. If you are taking medication, check with your prescribing physician or pharmacist before taking supplements.

3. Start eating better. Leafy greens and other vegetables, good quality proteins, and if you can tolerate them, whole grains will help give you steady energy and the nutrition you need. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, cakes, poor-quality carbs, and other low-nutrition calories. Add some nuts and seeds like almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds to your diet if you aren’t allergic.

4. If you know symptoms can get severe, begin your lightbox routine, now. Last year we wrote: “Sitting in front of a light box once a day for 30 minutes might be enough to lift your depression.  And more expensive models are not necessarily any better than cheaper ones. (Some are well under one hundred dollars).”

5. We also mentioned that: A “light alarm clock” is another SAD therapy tool that can help with depression symptoms, especially getting up in the morning. Early in the morning, a light begins to shine at a low level, gradually growing brighter, until it’s time to wake up. Some light alarm clocks are only designed to wake you; other, usually more expensive versions are designed to both wake you and treat SAD.

6. Exercise daily. Even 15 minutes a day is better than nothing. Outdoor exercise in the daylight hours can help, but going to a gym or working out at home is always an option.

7. Schedule social evening activities away from home at least two nights a week and invite guests at least one night a week. Anecdotal evidence from my own clients, suggests that one or two nights of volunteer work, or other activities like taking a class that require active involvement with others (a movie is passive) gives them a feeling of purpose and helps them through the winter. One client joined a choir with twice-weekly rehearsals; another taught a class at the local community center.

If you see a therapist, ask him or her to help you develop a Winter-Blues prevention plan with achievable goals NOW.

It’s easier to begin a preventative program before the Winter Blues become a reality.

 

 

 

 

7 Strategies To Deal With The Winter Blues NOW, Before Winter Begins


Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.


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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2014). 7 Strategies To Deal With The Winter Blues NOW, Before Winter Begins. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 12, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapy-soup/2014/10/7-strategies-to-deal-with-the-winter-blues-now-before-winter-begins/

 

Last updated: 22 Oct 2014
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