Mental Health In The Winter

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Written by Rachel Mead

Like many others, I have had a longstanding battle with depression and anxiety. There are some really good days and some really hard days and everything in between. I struggle more in the winter, especially when the days are shorter, there is less sunlight in general, and it seems that there is an overcast of perpetual greyness.

 When you add in the stress or busyness of the holidays, it is more challenging. Now, with social distancing and other limited options for having an adventure, life can easily feel consistently upside-down. 

But there is hope–there is always hope! I thought I would share my top 10 things for having a better day. While these do not always ensure that my day goes from bad to great, these things do always help my day get better. 

And better is always an improvement! 

Please be aware that this is just me sharing my personal journey and should not take the place of medical/professional advice you have received. 

10) Happy Light 

I keep a small happy light (a lamp that mimics bright natural sunlight for light therapy) at my desk. Mine has adjustments for both intensity and timing. I use it for a few minutes almost every morning before I start work to give myself a nice boost. 

Please be careful to not use it too late in the day as it can affect your circadian rhythms and sleep cycles. Start small and gradually increase duration and intensity of exposure. 

9) Essential Oils

My personal favorite is lemongrass (but experiment to find what works for you), as it helps with both anxiety and energy. You can use a mist infuser in your room or an essential oils bracelet, or you can simply apply directly to your wrists. 

I also put a little bit inside my mask when I need to go out to help calm me and reduce that claustrophobic feeling. 

8) Deep Breathing

I really enjoy the 4 – 4 – 6 deep breathing method. Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4, hold the breath for the count of 4, and breathe out through your nose to the count of 6. I normally have to repeat this for 5-10 cycles to really feel it take hold. 

7) Grounding

This is something I had to practice before I was able to do it in the midst of anxiety. The trick is to distract your brain with the world around you. 

You want to get to the point that this process takes you about 30 seconds, but it is amazing how much it can reset your brain in a positive way!

5 – identify five things you can see

4 – identify four things you can feel/touch

3 – listen for three things you can hear

2 – identify two things you can smell

1 – pinpoint one thing you can taste (what taste is currently inside your mouth)

6) Morning Smoothie

I am not a morning person and it is hard for me to want to eat breakfast. So, instead, I make an amazing smoothie to give my brain and body what it needs. 

Here is my recipe for 1 serving: 

6 ice cubes

½ cup of low sugar 100% juice (I like the diet V8 Splash fruit juices)

1 serving of the protein powder of your choice

1 small banana or ½ a large banana

2 tablespoons of fat free vanilla yogurt

½ cup of frozen fruit – this is where the real flavor comes from. Some of my favorite combinations are pineapple with black cherries, mango with raspberry, and strawberries with blueberries.

5) Inspiration

Read a short article or part of a chapter in a book on a person who inspires you. It doesn’t matter why or how that person inspires you. It is just important that this individual helps ignite your own passion. 

4) Appreciation

Check in with one person in your life who matters to you. It could be a text, phone call, video chat, social media post, or even a handwritten note. Just let them know you appreciate them and are thinking about them. 

The great thing here is that this not only helps you feel connected to the world and life around you, but also helps to brighten someone else’s day. 

3) Yoga

My body has had lots of bumps and breaks along the way. I do not get to exercise the same way I used to. The great thing about yoga is it helps to stretch out your tight muscles, which is one way our body hangs onto stress, and it also increases your mental focus, boosts self awareness, and renews your spirit. 

Enhanced Prep’s own tutor Chloe Lee has been teaching yoga for years and just recently did a yoga Zoom session, which was one of my favorites. You can participate in the one hour session through your own home viewing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wVA3pldS1c

2) Headspace

There are so many apps out there that help with meditation, relaxation, sleep, and focus. I personally have been using Headspace for years! 

I love the courses that focus on a particular topic, like dealing with distractions, patience, and prioritization, the baby animal videos to watch on a break when I need a quick smile, and the Sleepcasts that help me fall asleep faster or get back to sleep quickly. 

1) Fresh Air

This is harder to obtain these days, especially during the winter or inclement weather. But walking around the block, stretching in the backyard, or playing fetch with one of my dogs at the park does wonders for eliminating restlessness. 

Such activities are great to mix in with your deep breathing, too! 

Here is to wishing you and yours a healthy, happy, easeful holiday season and new year! 

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