Even though we’ve just gotten to Fall and the pumpkin spice lattes and crisp air have beguiled us into happy times, the Winter Blues are inevitably comin’ for that ass.
The Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that changes as the seasons do. In the North, Winter starts at precisely Mid-October-Thirty at 7:24 PM as soon as you feel a disrespectful gust of wind permeate your coat and freeze your entire chest cavity to the point where you feel it in your back. As I head into my third year as a New Yorker and post-pandemic life (whatever that means) I know all too well that the Winter Blues are coming but how can we put a plug in them before blow our way?
In my yoga practice and daily routine I try my best to live in alignment with the Earth. This means things like rising with the Sun and giving into my emotions when the Moon is being her usual self. The urge to sleep in always becomes stronger in the Winter but I’ve learned my lesson. As hard as it is sometimes, looking out for your future self is incredibly rewarding and when it comes to things like mental health, it’s best to think ahead…pun intended. This includes striking at dawn…I mean, waking up at dawn, eating better, taking vitamins and sometimes seeking further help from a professional.
With some proper planning, you don’t have to let the blues get you down before the season even gets here. Here are some tips for how to beat the Winter Blues before they begin.
Rise With The Sun
As hard as it can be at first there are a lot of benefits to waking up early. Toward mid-Fall I like to gradually set my alarm clock earlier each day. This way, by the time O’dark thirty arrives for the Winter Solstice in December, I’ve already gotten a head start with some sunshine and have made the most out of my day because I’ve actually had the time to. Nothing quite beats having quality time with yourself in the morning to get in some meditation, exercise, and maybe even some time to focus on a personal project — all things that can greatly improve your mood.
Eat Well and Take Vitamins
During the colder months we miss out on the “happy vitamin” aka Vitamin D. But of course, one of the most beneficial ways to get it is with the Sun…which feels like it disappears right after lunch. And if you’re not privy or unable to rise with the Sun, then you’ll need another means…like food. As a vegetarian deluxe (fellow pescatarians know how it is) I live by the rule that the more color you add to your plate, the better the meal is for you—and it tastes better too! This is also a great way to make sure you’re getting all of your nutrients in each meal. Foods that fight the Winter Blues like spinach, berries, eggs, walnuts and salmon are vibrant in color and packed with the vitamins you need to sustain a healthy mind and body.
In addition to Vitamin D there are a few other vitamins that will help boost your mood. Supplements like folate, iron, and magnesium can also aid in fighting fatigue and muscle tension, helping you to relax.
Create a Winter Schedule
If you don’t already have a quick and mindful morning routine then that’s something you’re going to want to get on. How you start your day (during any season) is important and even having a loose schedule can put you on the right track. If you can’t begin your day how you intended than peppering in other events and activities, such as creative and fitness classes, will also assist in supporting you during the dark times.
And if you’re worried about falling off, that’s why the next point is a good one too.
Get An Accountability Buddy
I’m the type of friend where you shouldn’t tell me anything you want to improve unless you actually want to improve it. ‘Cause we doin’ it, baby! So naturally, having an accountability buddy is one of my favorite things when I have any kind of goal in mind. This can be as simple as reaching out to a friend and stating your goal and how you would like to be held accountable. Friends and I have set alarms to text reminders to get whatever it is done. You don’t even have to have similar goals but if you do I’m sure that just helps more. You can also do this in a group. Personally, I would keep it at four to six players as someone always seems to fall off past that. And don’t forget to treat yourselves to a friend date as you complete milestones together!
Seek Professional Help
If you’re feeling overtly angsty about combatting the Winter Blues then talking to a professional may be in order. When I started going back to therapy most recently there was actually nothing inherently “wrong” with me or my life. Therapy isn’t a linear journey and there are different reasons to seek it out. I made the decision to go back because I knew things in my life were going to change soon and having extra guidance is always helpful. Therapists are equipped to give you the proper tools than can really help in the long run so don’t be judgmental with yourself. The goal is to be your healthiest and happiest version of you and we can’t always do that alone.
No matter where you are on your journey to a healthier mind and body, remember to practice grace with yourself. It’s the one ingredient that makes every season a little lighter.