Let’s reflect on how ‘merry’ it is to have the winter season around.
Sometimes it travels with powerful winter storms that shut down our communication systems.
It covers our vehicles, so they aren’t visible to the eyes and leave us aching after a painful slip on the snow. (You know how excruciating the pain from a slip can be if you’ve been unfortunate to fall.)
Isn’t winter the best season ever?
Wait a minute…
How could I’ve forgotten to mention those dreadful winter blues? There’s this overwhelming sadness that follows you everywhere. A feeling of doom and gloom.
Obviously, the “most wonderful time of the year” is not so ‘wonderful’ for some of us.
You found this article because you struggle to beat the winter blues. Sometimes it knocks you down every year or occasionally.
Either way, it’s a distressing situation. This is because the winter blues can advance to winter depression or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). *
Since we’re already on the subject, let’s talk about the source of the winter blues and associated symptoms.
*In some texts and articles online, the winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder is used interchangeably. While both conditions have similarities, SAD is a more extreme case of the winter blues.
What Causes the Winter Blues?
The specifics of what cause the winter blues are unknown. Scientists, however, suggest there might be a connection between light reduction and winter depression.
Each season comes with different climatic conditions. Wintry periods seem to alter how certain hormones in the brain are released.
It was noted, for example, that serotonin transporters spike during winter periods. Increased serotonin transporters indicate decreased levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin levels decrease because of a reduction in light exposure.
What does serotonin have to do with you?
The hormone serotonin is like that mother who keeps your attitude in check, as it regulates how you feel. These are important neurotransmitters in the brain that affect your mood.
Too little serotonin released in the brain is problematic for your mental health.
Think about a major transformation. This minute you’re a bubbly, upbeat person with a bright outlook.
You’re the Grinch who stole Christmas—grumpy and hopeless with a worn-out face.
Another hormone affected by light reduction is melatonin. You may be familiar with that word, as it’s the hormone that regulates sleep. Researchers have seen a spike in melatonin levels during wintry months.
The more melatonin released, the sleepier you become. This explains why you feel flat out tired and spent during winter, even if you aren’t doing much. In some cases, even your ‘tired’ is exhausted.
In hindsight, if you already struggle with an existing mental health condition, the winter blues will worsen how you feel.
How can you beat the winter blues? Let’s consider 7 best ways.
Get some sunlight.
No, seriously, get some sunlight.
This is your first line of (and best) defense to beat the winter blues. Since a lack of sunlight reduces serotonin release, relishing a few minutes outdoors doesn’t hurt.
Soak up as much sunshine as possible.
But what if the sun doesn’t give its brilliant light? Is there anything you can do?
Yes, light therapy is a worthy option. This is a common treatment used to beat the winter blues.
In light therapy, a lightbox that mimics natural outdoor light is used. To affect how hormones are transmitted in the brain, you’re exposed to this box a few hours after rising.
You can purchase a lightbox, but it’s best to consult with your general practitioner to ensure you’re getting one with ideal features for your situation.
This is a therapy you can use at home.
Take a Well-Deserved Vacation
When was the last time you dropped everything and escape your usual routine?
Since dinosaurs walked the earth?
Eh, that vacation is way overdue. You’re ready for a vacation on a tropical island with radiant sunshine and exquisite beaches.
I hear an island like Jamaica calling, or somewhere in the Caribbean. (Of course, since the world is facing a global, catastrophic pandemic, ensure it’s safe to travel. If in doubt, you may need to hold off until the situation eases over.)
I’m sure you’ve been putting in extra hours at work and burning that midnight candle.
Plus, all work and no play make Jack (and Jill) a dull boy (and girl).
Many people have used traveling elsewhere to beat the winter blues.
However, this isn’t a permanent solution.
Some have returned home only to feel sick after their vacation, especially after getting back right in the middle of winter.
If you can vacation elsewhere for the entire winter, that’s a huge win. But, if you must get back into the cold, vacationing might not be the best option, unless used with other coping techniques.
Try Some Essential Oils
The practice of aromatherapy has blown up over the years. You don’t need to be certified to use essential oils, but you should at least be familiar with safety practices.
Using essential oils like bergamot may affect how you feel. For me, bergamot is an essential oil that brings with it the sunshine (frankly, all citrus essential oils do).
When essential oils like bergamot, lavender, and lemon are inhaled, they stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin.
Also, a study showed that bergamot essential oil may reduce the effects of negative emotions and tiredness.
Essential oils are best transmitted through the air when used in a diffuser. These devices can be sourced on Amazon. Companies like Edens Garden and Plant Therapy sell pure, high-quality essential oils if you’re interested in trying aromatherapy.
Using your essential oils is as simple as adding 5 to 10 drops in a diffuser and relaxing.
Get Some Vitamin D
Many people are vitamin D-deficient, although the skin synthesizes this nutrient when exposed to the sun.
Once the sun’s ultraviolet rays hit the skin, cholesterol skin cells produce the energy that causes vitamin D production.
With fewer sunny days in winter, your body will need encouragement to produce the vitamin D it needs. Hence, supplements might be necessary.
Talk to your doctor before taking vitamins. Some persons can’t absorb this nutrient properly, so a doctor will be able to suggest a specific dosage.
But you might be wondering, “what’s the connection between vitamin D and beating the winter blues?”
Vitamin D may assist the body in producing healthy neurotransmitters.
These transmitters, much like serotonin mentioned earlier, add to how your body works.
No wonder, people who struggle with depression tend to lack sufficient levels of vitamin D!
Try Some Talk Therapy
Talk therapy focuses on altering how you think and feel to bring about a paradigm shift.
Different types of talk therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy and neurolinguistic programming.
This mode of treatment focuses on teaching different coping techniques to help you beat the winter blues when it comes knocking.
Psychotherapy focuses on doing proactive activities to keep you engaged. These pleasurable activities done daily put you in a better mood and gives you the resilience to deal with down days and ward off excessive daytime sleepiness.
You’ll be in a better position to challenge negative emotions and thoughts and learn the skills you need to deal with common symptoms associated with the winter blues.
If you’re interested in learning more about talk therapy, go ahead and schedule a free 30-minute session with me.
Get Some Warmth
It’s important to stay warm.
This is because the onset of the winter blues is a result of the climatic condition.
Staying as snug as possible can make you feel better.
Try staying active.
Exercising is one way to turn the heat up. Consuming hot beverages at different times of the day may also bring relief. You might not fancy tea drinking, but brewing a cup of peppermint or ginger will make you feel better.
Keep Your Mind Occupied
Negative emotions swarm your mind like the plague when it’s left to idle. Keep active. When engulfed in activities, you aren’t fixated on negative situations.
You’ll be too busy to buckle under down days or extreme fatigue. Find something you love doing and immerse yourself in it.
Negative thoughts creep in when your mind has nothing to focus on.
Remember, if you neglect your mental health, your situation can advance from bad to worse. When you work to beat the winter blues, you might ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Trying a combination of things (or all the suggestions) mentioned in the article may mitigate feelings of tiredness and sadness during wintry months.
Your winter days don’t have to be filled with doom and gloom; you can beat the winter blues.