7 ways to avoid the blues

It’s that time of year again. All is merry, snow is falling, and the holidays are here. And yet, one important ailment that many Canadians face is the dreaded Winter Blues. What is the Winter Blues?

Where the sun don’t shine

The winter is a great season and there are people who actually enjoy it more than other seasons. In Canadian winters, the nights are longer, the cold can be harsh and the weather makes it hard to be outside too much.

The leading contributor to the winter blues is the lack of sun exposure. Because days are shorter, and we spend so much time inside, we don’t get as much sun rays as our body needs. Lack of sunlight affects serotonin production and low serotonin is the leading cause for Winter Blues.

So what can be done to avoid going through the blues?

Tip #1: Love thy Sun

Since lack of sunlight is the leading cause for fatigue, mood changes and irritability associated with the Winter Blues, you need to find ways to expose yourself to sunlight. Light therapy is an alternative to actual sunlight; however it is not always very easily accessible or cost effective.

So, go for a walk or a light jog whenever the sun is out in winter. Spend more time outside; just remember to dress accordingly so that the cold is not a factor. If you run early in the morning, run when the sun is up. Even on a cloudy day, some sunlight exposure can be obtained and will be good for you. If a stronger dose is needed, take a vacation to a sunny destination.

Tip #2: Get your party hat on!

Having a party in winter is a good idea. The process of planning and thinking about the party helps keep your mind occupied and the fun the party provides helps chase away the Winter Blues. Call it a “Mexican posada” (a traditional set of parties that Mexicans have before Christmas) or the mid-winter sun celebration or whatever you prefer, any excuse is good for a party, even without a birthday or a special celebration.

Tip #3: Sweat it! Exercise is good for you

Just another great reason to stay fit, a good way to fight the winter blues is doing regular exercise. Keeping fit helps fight off sadness and depression from the season. It is an activity that gives you something to look forward to and if done in a social setting (like a gym) may actually lead to more parties (see tip #2).

Tip #4: Catch some sleep

Sleep is an important factor. Because of the weather changes and the less sunlight, people naturally want more sleep during the winter. However, with all the action and that happens during this time, sleep gets affected. Discipline is key here. Try to keep a regular sleeping pattern and habit, sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night and make every effort to keep bedtime and wake time regular and consistent.  Sleeping patterns will normalize and you’ll find yourself having more energy.

Avoid oversleep. Oversleeping is not helpful; it can actually make you feel more tired. Naps, on the other hand, are actually great. A short 10 to 30 minute nap can re-energize you during the day.

Tip #5: Help is never far

If, through no fault of your own, find you are still feeling down during the winter season, seek help. The winter blues affect people in different ways, but they should be manageable. However, if you’re symptoms of depression are becoming disruptive or even debilitating, you should for professional help. It can make a world of difference.

So, this winter, if you feel the blues coming, fight them off with these helpful tips. And if you want to talk about it, reach out, you’ll be glad you did. If you are in the Kitchener-Waterloo region (Guelph, Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo), we are a call away. If you are farther away, online counselling may work for you.