Pushing Through the Fog: Dealing with Winter Depression

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

For many, the holidays are a joyous time of year. The warm twinkle of fairy lights, Christmas songs on the radio and the comfort of home-cooked meals make this the best time of year.

But many of us struggle to feel joy, especially since new government restrictions and travel bans mean that some of us will be spending the holidays apart from our families.

With the days getting shorter and the sun setting at 4 pm, you may find that the world outside your window mirrors your mood; dull, dark and gloomy. You may find yourself feeling unmotivated, anxious and isolated, despite the cheer of the holiday season. 

These feelings are more common than you may think. In fact, new research has shown that in the UK, one in three suffers from winter depression, or the aptly abbreviated Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is predicted that this figure will rise during the current winter lockdown, so if you find yourself feeling this way, you’re certainly not alone.

If you suffer from SAD or are feeling low over the festive period, here are some tips to help you feel your best:

  1. Try to get outside every day

 This can be especially challenging in winter months as the weather becomes colder and wetter, making us unwilling to step outside and brave the elements. If once a day is too challenging, set yourself a goal to go for a short walk three or four times per week.

Fresh air is proven to boost serotonin levels as the more fresh oxygen in your blood, the more happy hormones your brain will release! It also provides greater clarity to the brain, helping you to think, focus and concentrate better.

A good way to get some walking in is to ditch the car and instead walk to your nearest supermarket. Or meet up with a friend for a socially distanced walk!

2. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule

The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep to keep the mind and body working at their best. An irregular sleep schedule can contribute to or even cause feelings of anxiety and demotivation. SAD can also cause sufferers to oversleep, so make sure to set an alarm to make the most of those few hours of daylight.

Relaxation apps like Calm can help out if you’re struggling to sleep.

3. Start a creative project

Research has shown that doing something creative can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as give purpose to your days inside. You could try painting along with a Bob Ross tutorial, start that book you’ve been wanting to read, try collaging with old magazines, or make some homemade gifts to send to family members.

The possibilities are endless!

4. Keep in touch with friends and family

This is especially important if you’re spending the holidays apart from family.

Everyone’s holidays are going to be a little more low-key this year (thanks, Covid), so make sure to send your friends and absent family a message or two to let them know you’re missing them. It’ll make them feel less alone, and it’s always reassuring to know that there are people we can talk to when we aren’t feeling our best.

5. Try meditation or yoga to reduce anxiety

Stretching and deep breathing exercises have been proven to reduce tension and feelings of anxiety. If you’re not sure where to start, apps like Headspace can show you the basics of deep breathing and getting yourself into a more positive mindset.

Additionally, there are countless guided meditation and yoga practises on YouTube catered to everyone – from complete beginners to more workout-style practices.

And lastly, use the upcoming holiday period to rest and reset. Taking extra care of our mental health is especially important after this turbulent year we’ve all had. Try not to stress about work or deadlines, and, for those of us lucky enough to return home, focus on spending quality time with family.

If you find yourself feeling this way for the first time, don’t feel guilty about not feeling the festive vibes. This has been a difficult year for us all so it’s perfectly normal to feel a little less festive this holiday season.


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Breathing Space 

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Published by Jasmine Hall

19-year-old journalism student at the University of Stirling

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