In the words of Ned Stark, “Winter is coming!” and I for one need to prepare for it. You may have heard of seasonal affective disorder, a mood disorder that creates feelings of anxiety and depression in relation to the changing of the seasons. It is most common for people to develop SAD during the autumn winter months when the weather becomes colder and the days are darker. I definitely suffer from this disorder and have heard it is not uncommon, especially in Ireland where we experience very little sunlight for months on end.
Winter is particularly hard for me as I work late nights and I don’t get outdoors as much as I would in the summer months. I thrive in summer, I am happier and healthier when the days are longer and the temperature is higher. Every year when summer comes to an end, I enter panic mode. How am I going to cope? How will I get through the cold and isolating winter? But then I realised, I was asking myself all the wrong questions. What I should have been asking myself was…
“How can I best prepare for it?”
In the wise words of my old business studies teacher Mrs. Luterell, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” So, I decided to devise a plan on how to implement self-care into my daily/weekly routine during the winter months. Here are my top five tips for surviving the winter…
One: Create a basic routine that includes exercise.
Keeping a routine during the winter months is probably the most important tip I can share with you, especially if you live somewhere that gets minimal sunlight during the daytime. By getting up early enough to expose yourself to sunlight, you will boost your Vitamin D (I also suggest taking a daily Vitamin D supplement to aid your deficiency) and it will make you feel good to get out in nature, even if it is only for a short period of time each day.
If this starts to become difficult for you, maybe join a gym over the winter months or start doing ten minutes of yoga in the morning. By sticking to a general routine you will occupy your time wisely and incorporate daily self-care practices that will aid you during this time. It is important to tailor your routine to your personal needs. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and rest, while factoring in your work hours, then make time for socializing and enjoyment. By creating a balance, you will in turn stabilize your mood as much as possible.
Two: Keep warm.
This might sound trivial but keeping my body temperature right is paramount to stabilizing my mood. If I am cold, I am miserable and susceptible to all the winter illness that come with the change in the weather. In the Danish concept of Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) it is important to relish in the feeling of cosy and be in the present moment. The Danes created Hygge as a way to survive the cold and bleakness they often experienced, it became a way to relish in the simple, everyday pleasures in life. Such as having a hot cup of tea with a friend, lighting candles to create a relaxing ambiance or running a steamy bath for yourself. Since the weather has become colder, I am adding extra blankets to my bed, drinking herbal tea an hour before I sleep and taking a hot water bottle to bed with me every night. It makes a big difference to my mood and helps me release tension from my body, allowing me to sleep better during the cold winter nights.
They say a good laugh is sunshine in the house. It creates mood boosting chemicals in your body and it is contagious! Make a mental note (or a physical one!) of TV shows, movies and people who make you laugh. If there are people in your life you make your face hurt from smiling, hang out with them more! Arrange nights out, lunches and catch up sessions with them. You can’t beat the company of a good soul. Or, if you’re feeling introverted put on one of your favourite comedies or go on a binge of funny cat videos on YouTube. Anything to cheer yourself up! My failsafe’s are usually Brooklyn 99, The Golden Girls, Dave Chappelle specials or Cody Ko videos on YouTube.
Four: Get out of the house.
This is really important. Getting out of the house and doing something enjoyable will really help to break up your day and create a sense of relief for your body and mind. One of my favourite things to do is to go to the cinema with a friend. The drive over allows us to catch up with each-other and watching the film helps me take my mind off things for at least an hour and a half.
Five: Trick your brain!
Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it and a great way to do this is through meditation and visualization. It might sound silly, but listening to guided meditations that take place on a sunny beach or in beautiful forest can be really helpful. It will allow your mind to feel relaxed and experience the feelings of witnessing sunshine and spring flowers without actually having to be there. It will help you to release happy brain chemicals and boost your immune system.
I hope these tips are helpful to you and I hope you take the time to create a self-care routine this winter. It will do you the world of good!
And, I want you to keep one thing in mind…