Winter can be a difficult and long season to endure. Days are shorter and sunlight is scarce. Outdoor activities require more clothing and preparation. For many people, these can cause feelings of depression. Motivation becomes low and interest in activities diminishes. Here are a few activities you can do to take care of yourself this time of year. Although they are not guaranteed to totally remove symptoms of depression, they may alleviate the winter blues and help you feel more connected to life!
Baths –Taking a warm bath can relax your muscles and the water can provide some much-needed warmth. Adding aromatherapy oils (such as lavender or peppermint) can further enhance the calming experience. Try leaving your phone in another room and just listen to music or read a book. Taking time away from devices will allow you to fully experience the moment.
Humidifier–Air is more dry in winter months, leading to cracked or itchy dry skin. This can be an unpleasant side-effect of winter, compounding depressive symptoms. Humidifiers distribute moisture into the air, hydrating skin. You can find small humidifiers for your bedroom. Without dry skin as a painful reminder of winter, mood can improve.
Light Box Therapy –Therapeutic light boxes are come in a variety of sizes from tiny pieces that can sit on your desk or bedside table to large floor units. Their bright light mimics sunlight and can provide needed sun exposure in the winter when outdoor sunlight is scarce. For best results, it is recommended to use the light box for approximately 30 minutes within one hour of waking in the morning. For more information on light boxes and how to choose an appropriate model, please read this article on the Harvard Health blog.
Stay Active –Exercise helps regulate stress hormones and boost mood. Gym memberships can be expensive and may not be convenient to your schedule. If the weather makes it impossible to go outside and you do not have a gym membership or exercise equipment at home, YouTube has a seemingly endless supply of workout videos. Even doing a few jumping jacks, squats, or pushups at a time can help circulate blood and relieve tension.
Spend Time with Friends –Winter weather can make socializing more difficult. It can be hard to find the motivation to venture out to see people when you have to trek through snow and cold wind. Still, socializing will help you feel connected to the world. Try hanging out with friends once a week, if possible. You can go on winter walks together, explore warm places in Chicago such as the Garfield Park Conservatory, or do something as simple as a movie night.
Identify Indoor Hobbies –Being cooped inside all winter can feel boring at times and isolating at times. Having a list of fun indoor activities can help bring purpose back to your days. Things such as puzzles, reading, indoor exercise, knitting, cooking, even cleaning provide a sense of immediate accomplishment, enhancing both motivation and mood.
Sleep –Adequate sleep is crucial for overall mental health. Practice good sleep hygiene such as turning off your phone and bright lights at least 30 minutes before going to bed so your brain has time to relax and transition to sleep. Creating a nighttime routine and going to bed around the same time each night can also help you fall and stay asleep.
In addition to the ideas listed above, simple activities like eating a warm meal, drinking herbal tea, and using a warm blanket are comforting. Feel free to generate your own list of personalized self-care tips for the winter. Keep this list in a notebook or post it by your computer so you can access your winter care plan whenever your mood needs a boost. Above all, remember that winter is not indefinite; spring, summer, and warm weather will eventually return.