This time of year can be hard on our mental health. The excitement of the holidays has worn off, winter break is over, and we only get 8 hours of sunlight a day- if we’re lucky. If you’re feeling blue right now, that’s perfectly normal. Less natural light can disrupt your body’s natural clock, production of serotonin and absorption of vitamin D. It also just makes things look sad and gloomy.
While I wish it was as simple as just jetting off to somewhere warm and tropical, we’re dealing with a pandemic and tight student budgets, so these tips will have to do for now!
Make the most of the sunlight
The sun rises around 8:00 am each morning and starts to set by 4:30. Enjoy the natural light while you can by getting outside for a few minutes a day, spending your time in areas in your house or apartment that get lots of light, and by waking up early enough to take advantage of the sunshine! Sleeping in late is something that’s necessary every so often but sleeping until noon each day limits your daylight hours to 5 or less!
Exercise helps boost feel-good endorphins that will give you energy, increase your motivation and make you feel better overall! Even if you’re not a fitness enthusiast, moving your body for an extra 30 minutes each day can help combat bad moods and reduce fatigue.
It’s way too easy to get into a habit of eating nothing but comfort food when the weather gets cold. Try incorporating more vegetables and whole foods into your winter diet and make sure you’re not skipping meals. Keeping a consistent and balanced diet helps to fuel your body and replenish your energy. Extra fruits and vegetables also provide your body with important vitamins to help you fight off winter colds!
Get enough sleep- but not too much
A change in daylight hours messes with your internal clock. It’s normal to have trouble falling asleep or waking up in the morning. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule will keep you feeling regular and reduce feelings of fatigue that come from getting too little or too much sleep. Waking up early helps you get as many daylight hours as possible which can help you feel happier. If you’re not a morning person, train yourself to be one! Try setting an alarm and waking up 30-minutes earlier than you normally do. Do that for a week, then make it an hour! After a few weeks, you won’t need an alarm anymore and you’ll be waking up early with no problems!
Stay connected to your friends and family
Winter blues can make you feel like spending more time alone. Staying social and connecting regularly with friends and family can have a positive impact on your mood and help you stay motivated. Even in a pandemic, where you may not be able to spend time in-person with your loved ones, video chat or even just a phone call can help you feel more connected.
Sometimes people experience more than your average winter blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a form of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It can impair your performance at school, in social relationships or at work. If you think you’re experiencing SAD, or if you’re struggling to cope with your winter blues, there are support options available to you.
If you’re experiencing a crisis, HERE247 is an addictions, mental health and crisis services hotline for individuals in the Waterloo Region.
Call them any time at this number: 1-844-437-3247
Befrienders Worldwide is a resource that can connect you to mental health and crisis hotlines no matter where you are in the world.