With the end of summer comes shorter days, less sunlight, less time spent outdoors and, for some of us, a bit of a negative shift in our mood. Known as the winter blues or even Seasonal Affective Disorder (in more severe cases), this shift ranges from feeling a little down, sluggish, withdrawn, or even depressed, as the colder, darker days begin to replace the rejuvenating days of spring and summer.
We all know that taking care of our mental health is a key component of our recovery, that’s why it’s critical we address any negative feelings which start to creep in – including those brought on by a change in the weather.
While you can’t control the seasons, you can stave off some of those ill feelings. If your mood is beginning to fall with the leaves outside, try these tips for a boost in spirit:
1. Get Outside
One of the reasons we start to feel gloomy this time of year is because of the reduced sunlight. Getting adequate exposure to light each day is an easy, free and important part of maintaining optimal mental health. Try taking a walk during the day or, at the very least, sit near a window, keep the curtains open and try to soak up some of those rays!
You might not feel like it, but this one is important. Friends can lift our mood and the distraction of activity can help take our mind off feeling down, even if just for a short while. Plan something fun with a friend and don’t cancel.
This is another mood booster that’s easy, free and important. It’s no secret that exercise is a key to our physical and mental health, but when the cold months set in, it can be harder to keep up our fitness. Make it a point to get some exercise, whether at the gym, in your house, or even outside (just be sure to bundle up!).
4. Make a To-Do List
When we get down, it can be hard to come up with ideas for activities to help us snap out of it. This is where a little forethought and prior planning can help. Make a list of all the things you would like to accomplish in the coming months. Having a list will remind you of the things you enjoy and make it easier to do something even though you might just feel like going back to bed. Just be sure to add in some fun activities!
5. Plan a Vacation
While vacations often go hand-in-hand with summer, it might be a good idea to save some of those vacation days for the colder months, especially if you start to feel down this time of year. Not only will it give you something to look forward to, if you travel to a warm location (Jamaica anyone?) you’ll be able to get a much-needed dose of sunlight and warm weather.
6. Talk to a Professional
If you find it difficult to shake those blue feelings, or if you’re concerned you might be suffering symptoms of depression, it would be a good idea to reach out. A therapist can help you navigate these uncomfortable feelings, suggest ways to combat the seasonal blues, and help monitor your moods to see if medication or light therapy is warranted. At any rate, you should never feel you need to suffer alone and reaching out can help banish those feelings of loneliness.
Taking care of ourselves is number one priority in recovery, and it’s important to understand what triggers negative feelings and to have a plan to respond to those feelings. By following these tips, and maybe even coming up with some of your own, you’ll have a plan of action to safeguard your mood and your recovery in case those wintry blues begin to set in.