Coping With the Winter/Holiday Blues

This time of year is difficult for many people, for a variety of different reasons. Whether it be because of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bad memories, being disconnected from family, or a whole host of other reasons. This time of year isn’t exactly “jolly” for all. So I’ve decided to put together a little list of how I cope with the holiday blues. Here goes:

Light Therapy

With the lack of natural sunlight depleting our vitamin D stores, we need to find a way to replenish them on our own. Besides from just taking vitamin D supplements, you can use a light box. These are special types of lights that mimic natural sunlight which causes chemical changes in the brain, elevating mood and increasing energy. According the Mayo Clinic these are what you should look for in a light box and how it should be used:

Generally, the light box should:

  • Provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light
  • Emit as little UV light as possible

Typical recommendations include using the light box:

  • Within the first hour of waking up in the morning
  • For about 20 to 30 minutes
  • At a distance of about 16 to 24 inches (41 to 61 centimeters) from the face
  • With eyes open, but not looking directly at the light

Although light therapy has been proven to work, light boxes are not approved, therefore not regulated by the FDA, so buy with caution. Not all light boxes are created equal.

Also, note that there are varying times, lengths of exposure, and varying light intensities that dictate how well light box therapy will work for your symptoms. If you have a psychiatrist I would suggest consulting them first about an optimal regime.

Therapy

If you have the resources, I suggest speaking with a therapist. I suggest speaking to a therapist year round if you can, but during the periods of holiday depression I definitely recommend seeking an objective ear from a professional. It can be difficult to really get into the fact that you are not enjoying this time of year to friends who seem to revel in the festivities. You don’t want to be seen as the Grinch or Scrooge of your circle. So venting to someone who is paid to, trained to, and accustomed to listening to people who are not in a good space mentally and counseling them through it, is always a good option.

Decluttering

There’s something to be said for “letting go”. Whether it’s letting go emotionally or letting go physically. Just like we sometimes don’t notice that we are holding onto emotional junk, we also don’t realize we are holding onto physical junk. Look around your room or your home and see how much of the stuff you are keeping is just unnecessary. I mean really look. Go through drawers, closets, storage bins, file cabinets, refrigerators, kitchen cabinets, etc. Notice all things in there that are only there for reasons in the vein of “just in case”, “maybe one day”, ” if xyz happens I can use this for.” Your reasoning isn’t rooted in any actual need for the items, but a potential usefulness “someday.” Getting rid of these items helps prepare your space physically and yourself mentally for a future that isn’t rooted in half-baked dreams from your past releases stale and stagnant energy that can block positivity.

Keep Your Hands Busy

“Idle hands are the devil’s playground” and blah blah blah. It’s actually pretty amazing how much doing activities that involve your hands and concentration can really get you out of your own head, and pause the cycle of negative thoughts. These activities don’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. Something as simple as coloring in a coloring book from the dollar store can relieve tension. Also crocheting, knitting,  cooking, playing video games, sewing, etc. Are all great, low pressure ways of easing the flow of depressing or negative thoughts. Many don’t even take much energy or motivation to start doing, which I know is a huge struggle when you’re depressed.

Go Ahead and Be Vain

The longer you stay in a low mood, the more it shows on your face and in your skin, and your overall appearance. So, if you can, get spruced up. You don’t have to go out. Just do a little something to remind yourself how good you look when you feel good. Put on the outfit that you feel the most confident in, wear those shoes that make you feel like powerful, style your hair in a way you love, do a full face of makeup (if that’s your thing), and strike a pose. Stand in front of the mirror and pretend Naomi Campbell is saying she likes your look. Take ALL the selfies. Throw on the filters and edits and do a cheesy collage. When those thoughts of feeling undesirable start shuffling in, go back to these pictures and reaffirm yourself.

Get the Heck Out of the House

Okay, Okay. I know it’s cold in most areas, but I’m not telling you to go on a hike in 20 degree weather (unless you want to.) I mean go somewhere that has a different more upbeat energy. It can be an arcade, a game night at a friend’s house, a coffee shop, a bookstore, the movies, the library, anywhere that is a safe haven for you.

So those are some of my winter blues coping strategies. Let me know what you think, and what you like to do when the holiday season continues to kick you in the shins.

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