Mental health is integral to our overall health, especially during the winter. Colder and shorter days can bring with them various mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, and even the “winter blues,” also referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Day-to-day life can be impacted when we experience mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Taking extra care of yourself during winter is vital for your emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Read on for seven actionable tips for improving your mental health during limited daylight hours.
How to take care of your mental health during the winter months
1. Make sleep a priority
If you feel drowsy during the daytime, you may not be getting good sleep at night. Sleep deprivation can lead to long-term health problems and affect your ability to function in all areas of your life, so getting enough sleep is crucial for staying mentally healthy in winter. Solid sleep habits can help you get the rest you need to stay alert and energized throughout the day. Prioritizing sleep in winter, especially with the lack of sunlight, is a simple way to avoid a depressed mood. Develop a simple bedtime routine that works for you and practice good sleep hygiene to maintain it.
2. Get outside and move
Two critical features of SAD that affect many folks in winter are a low mood and a lack of energy. Regular exercise has been shown to have numerous benefits, including reducing the risk of depression.
Exercise in winter can help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase energy levels. It can also lead to better sleep, concentration, and self-esteem. This effective treatment can help treat SAD, as well as mild to moderate depression, in adults and children alike. Get moving and get outside as often as possible, even if it’s only for a few minutes, like a walk to the mailbox. You can also combat low vitamin D levels by getting enough sunshine daily.
3. Nourish yourself with healthy foods
Eating the right foods for your body improves your mood, reduces stress, and gives you more energy. Healthy eating habits also help to keep your body strong and provide essential nutrients for optimal brain function.
Nutrition for mental health is about more than just avoiding over-processed junk food; it’s about choosing nutrient-rich foods that can fuel your body and mind. Eating a balanced diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats can help you feel better both physically and mentally. Incorporating these foods into your daily diet can help you maintain and improve your mood.
4. Connect with others
Social connection is more important than ever in today’s world. With the rise of technology, it can be easy to feel disconnected from others. But research has shown that having strong social connections can help reduce loneliness and depression, which leads to improved overall health.
Make sure you stay connected with those around you. There are many ways to connect with others, including meeting up for coffee or a walk or catching up over the phone or online. Find what works best for you, and stay consistent. Connecting with others can positively impact your mental and physical state, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
Remember, relationships and community can take many forms and still be meaningful. If you are unable to socialize in person, online friendships, virtual support groups, or even “snail mail” pen pals can bring real comfort and joy to your life.
5. Practice mindfulness & meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are powerful ways to fight stress and achieve greater peace of mind during winter. Practicing mindfulness can help us tap into our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations and better understand ourselves and our place in the world around us.
Meditation has many benefits, including improving sleep quality, increasing self-awareness, enhancing creativity, boosting productivity, strengthening relationships with others, and promoting overall well-being. Guided meditation for anxiety relief is especially helpful in helping individuals to cope with difficult emotions or stressful situations. With regular mindfulness meditation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or visualization techniques, we can learn how to manage our thoughts and emotions to make positive changes in our lives, even during the winter months.
6. Take time to relax & unwind
Make time to relax and unwind. Taking moments to pause can significantly reduce your stress levels. Self-care activities such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and journaling can help you to relax your mind and body. You can use various relaxation techniques to reduce stress, such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, and aromatherapy. Taking time out of your day to focus on yourself can significantly reduce stress levels while also helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Playing your favorite music, lighting a candle, or drawing a bath are all great ways to relax and unwind.
7. Seek professional help or support
We can do a lot to improve our mental state but don’t forget to seek professional help when facing difficulties you cannot manage on your own. Having a professional to talk with can be especially beneficial during times of stress or transition, or seasonal depression.
Therapy offers a safe space to talk about your feelings, learn coping strategies, and gain insight into your behaviors and relationships. Professional mental health support can also help you make positive changes and create healthier habits for the future. Seeking help from a qualified professional can be a great way to take care of your mental health and ensure you have the necessary resources and coping skills to thrive in any season.
If you need help accessing mental health resources or care, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas has partnered with MiResource to guide you through identifying the proper mental health care plan for your situation. These programs are available to members with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas as the primary carrier. To learn more, call 800-520-3137 or visit the MiResource webpage.