By Celeste Souza. Celeste is the Director of Behavioral Health at NEWH. She is an LICSW with nearly 20 years of experience helping people to reduce their experience of suffering and build a life worth living.
This time of year, I really notice how much daylight impacts my life; the days are shorter, the nights are longer. And for some of us, the winter blues are starting to creep in. According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately half a million people in the United States suffer from winter seasonal affective disorder – also known as SAD – while 10 to 20% may suffer from a milder form of winter blues. Here are a few tips that can help you get through.
Remember that in a few short weeks, the days will start to get longer again. The Shortest day of the year, December 21st is right around the corner. After that, each day will bring us a little more sunlight.
Get outside when you can. Even if it is cold, the winter sun can help you feel better, bundle up and try to get a little fresh air each day.
Move a little more. Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise 2-3 times per week can make a big difference in improving your mood and decreasing your anxiety. Really nice return on your investment!
Opt for books instead of a screen. Spending more time inside can bring big temptations to spend more time on the screen. But you know from experience that does not mean more good vibes. Pick up a book at your local library, or pull one off the shelf you have been meaning to read. You can have that quiet inside time and feel good about it, too.
Warm Beverage, Warm Heart. Holding a warm cup of tea or coffee can help you feel cozy and calm, even on the shortest, dreariest of days.
Try a lightbox. If the sun isn’t coming your way outside, you can bring it inside with a lightbox. 15-20 minutes in the morning can start to improve mood…but beware, this one isn’t for everybody. A lightbox too late in the afternoon can keep you up at night. Also, we are starting to find that they can cause elevated mood for some folks with Bipolar Disorder and if you have Rosacea you run the risk of a skin flair.
Keep Expectations Low. The pressure to be “joyful” can be intense this time of year. It is okay to not be full of excitement. It is okay to feel lonely. It is okay to look forward to January (or even April). Maybe the best kind of December is a peaceful one.
Give a little to someone else. Believe it or not, giving (of your time, treasures, or talents) boosts your endorphins and helps you feel good. Look for ways to give to your favorite organization, a person you know, or a group doing something you believe in. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/giving-rather-than-receiving-leads-to-lasting-happiness-study.html
If these feelings of stress and anxiety continue, or if you just feel you need to talk about different issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to our behavioral health team at NEW Health.