By Stacey Freeman
Just when you breathe a sigh of relief that you have gotten through the holidays uncoupled, in comes January and the winter blues and, suddenly, all the progress you made feels lost. If that sounds familiar, know you are not alone.
Winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when referring to those more severe cases, is not an uncommon occurrence, particularly for individuals living in parts of the country observing Daylight Savings Time. Research as to the causes of winter depression and SAD vary and include theories pointing to a lack of light during the early morning hours to a rise in melatonin as possible causes. Treatments to ease symptoms resulting from SAD likewise vary. You can read more about winter depression and SAD here.
If you were already coping with feelings of loneliness or isolation during the holidays, particularly if you are single, and feel yourself sinking even further now that they are over, there are affirmative steps you can take to lift your spirits. Here are 10 ways to beat the winter blues.
Get moving! Even better is if you can engage in that physical activity outside and during daylight hours. Consider a brisk walk. A few minutes each day can be a game changer, so don’t take the “why bother” attitude. When I first separated from my husband, I took to the streets of my neighborhood, even during the colder months. Though I was unable to stay outside as long as I could during other times of the year (I am always freezing), I pushed myself to get out there anyway, knowing the benefits would far outweigh any temporary discomfort.
2. Stay warm
Be sure to bundle up, though. That goes for while you are indoors, too. Feeling cold can also make you feel depressed. So dress warmly, drink hot beverages, eat warm foods, and keep your home between 64 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I always have a bulky sweater at arm’s reach and a cup of coffee or tea at my side, which makes being home feel a little less oppressive and, instead, a lot cozier.
3. Get sleep
I always say the world is a different place when you are not well rested. But don’t sleep too much. That can be counterproductive, making you feel sluggish and even worse as a result. With two daughters in high school and a son in middle school who must each leave the house at the crack of dawn, my day starts early. I personally need seven hours of sleep to function properly, and I make sure to get it. For me, it’s lights out before 11 pm. The world can do without me for a few hours. If it can’t, too bad.
4. See the light
Open your shades, sit by a window, or consider buying an artificial light, also called a light box. Just 30 minutes per day in bright light can be enough to lift your spirits. Once I dress in the morning, I go from room to room raising my shades and opening my curtains even if the sun has not yet risen. Engaging in this ritual each morning signals to me that today’s a new day.
5. Spend time with friends and family
Go for a visit. Or, alternatively, invite others over for a small get together or some one-on-one catch up time. Spending an hour having a heart-to-heart or laughing with someone you like (or love) is a perfect way to elevate your mood. Better yet, start a group chat with a few friends and suggest weekly impromptu meet ups. Whoever is available can chime in and attend. No pressure! What’s great about it is that there’s always someone to hang out with, go to dinner, see a movie, or do whatever. I am lucky to be included in such a group. Girls’ night out this Monday? I’m in!
6. Take up a hobby
Looking to do something creative with the thousands of photos you have taken over the years? Enjoy cooking or baking? The winter months are the perfect time to start that craft project you have been meaning to or try out those new recipes you have been saving. The oven is continuously on in our house, and my girls and I are always experimenting with new recipes, including fresh trout two nights ago. Delish!
7. Eat healthily
Be careful not to pack on the pounds, though, which can be easy to do during the winter months. Prepare and eat foods that will boost your mood naturally, mainly whole foods rich in nutrients instead of carbohydrates that offer a quick fix. I always keep fresh veggies around as well as different varieties of raw nuts. As a “grazer” who eats small portions frequently, I need to stay mindful of what I eat and the dietary choices I make.
8. Organize an activity
I recently received an invitation to attend a party where all of the guests will be creating vision boards for 2017. Love it! Not only will I have a chance to spend time with friends and meet new people, I will also be creating a project specifically designed to help me focus positively on the future. What a lovely idea!
9. Plan a vacation
Part of my vision for 2017 is to travel and even though it is the dead of winter, I am beginning to think about my summer vacation plans now. Blue skies and warm weather are only a few months away, and I want to be ready. I am also planning a short getaway to a spa at the end of January with a few girlfriends. A trip is a great reward, especially after a divorce. Money tight? Consider auctioning your diamond ring to help with the expense.
10. Seek help
If you are unable to relieve your symptoms and continue to feel depressed, assistance is readily available. Contact your local health provider or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America to find a mental health professional near you. Remember, help is only a phone call away.
Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, a lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir, MariaShriver.com, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights on the divorce experience and has repeatedly been quoted in The Huffington Post’s divorce vertical. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Email Stacey today at Stacey.Freeman@WriteOnTrackLLC.com or call 800-203-1946 for a free consultation and proposal. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTrackLLC.com.