As the days become shorter and temperatures drop, it can be easy to get bogged down with a case of the winter blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more than just feeling down or lacking energy on cold days, it's persistent feelings of depression that coincide with the season change. This mental health disorder can be sneaky - but with an understanding of its causes and symptoms, you can be better equipped to recognize it and take steps toward putting yourself in good mental health.
You may already feel that the start of the new year can be especially hard on your state of mind, as we are coming out of a busy holiday season, finances may be tight, and it can be difficult to find motivation when the weather outside is gloomy. This is why it's important to mindfully take steps toward improving your mental well-being and feeling supported each day.
In honour of Bell Let's Talk Day and MARNIE & MICHAEL's ongoing mental health initiative, today we're sharing practical tips for managing your mental health, reducing feelings of anxiety, and beating the winter blues. Let's create positive change together!
Stay Connected with Loved Ones
One great way to help manage anxious thoughts and reduce the winter blues is to stay connected with your loved ones. Reaching out for emotional support from friends or family members can be tough when you're feeling low but it can make a world of difference in managing stress levels and negative emotions. Even if you don’t feel like talking about what’s on your mind, knowing you are not alone and having someone available for conversation or sitting with you can truly lift the spirits.
Stories shared about real-life experiences can also help you feel less alone. Check out Our Stories on the blog or grab our Mini Memoir Meets Guided Journal for shared excerpts on my own mental health journey growing up. #youarenotalone
Whether held in-person or virtually, hosting game nights, coffee dates or having movie marathons together can be another great way to stay connected with and feel supported by others in the chilly winter months. Get creative and reach out!
Find Ways To Move Your Body
Another helpful tip for managing the winter blues is finding ways to move your body that you ENJOY. With colder temperatures and fewer hours of daylight, it can be hard to have the energy or motivation needed for physical activity—especially when struggling with mental health. But even something as simple as stretching or going for a short walk around your neighbourhood can give you a much-needed energy boost and improve your mood. Moving stagnant energy out of your body (aka. heavy emotions) pays off in both physical and mental benefits!
Each day, try setting aside 30 minutes dedicated solely to movement; this could include anything from yoga poses in your living room to dancing in the kitchen to walking around your local park with your pup! Whatever gets your body moving and brings a smile to your face. Need some added motivation? Do it with a friend! Establish a daily routine, block it into your calendar and make it a non-negotiable.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Practicing relaxation techniques, such as mindful meditation or deep breathing exercises, has been known to help reduce anxious thoughts and promote improved mental well-being any time of year. Taking time each day—even if it’s only 5-10 minutes—to sit in silence or listen to calming music can help bring awareness back into the present moment and allow you to focus on grounding yourself within those few moments of peace.
Additionally, mindfulness apps such as Calm or Headspace (or even free channels on YouTube) offer guided meditations that are tailored specifically toward managing anxiety symptoms and improving your overall well-being. Try one today!
Listening to podcasts is another great way to relax, boost your emotional wellness and practice self-care. Check out our Top 10 list of mental health podcast recommendations here!
Keep a Journal
Journaling can help you process your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. It also allows you to track any patterns or triggers in your mental health so you can establish some healthy boundaries and implement techniques from your wellness toolbox. It helps you unpack the deep stuff and find clarity in your goals and visions for the type of life you desire and the type of person you want to be. Learn more about the benefits of expressive writing in our blog here.
When journalling, you can keep your notes to yourself, review them later for reflection or even use your journal as a communication tool for opening up tough conversations with family, friends or a therapist. Every day, give yourself permission to take breaks, go inward, and practice self-care. Your mental health matters... YOU matter!
Seek Professional Support
Friends, it's so important to recognize when to step away from stressful situations, tasks, and PEOPLE. It's a normal part of life to have emotions that ebb and flow. Relative highs and lows: sadness and joy, love and disappointment, frustration and excitement. But when your mood and mental well-being affect your ability to cope day to day, it's time to seek external support.
Talking is the first step to creating positive change. #BellLetsTalk
💚 Are you feeling alone, lost, or overwhelmed? Winter can bring a wave of low moods, but if you're feeling constant sadness, fatigue and disinterest in things that once brought joy, don't brush off the blues – seek help from your doctor or therapist to explore ways to get back on track. Whether in-person or online, a mental health professional can provide you with helpful resources, everyday coping strategies, and guidance no matter where you're at in your wellness journey.
💚 If you are in crisis, please go to the closest hospital or call 911.
Open Up the Conversation, End the Stigma
Besides the stress of driving in poor weather conditions, snow days with kids spent working from home, and an over-scheduled calendar of things-to-do, the winter season can certainly bring about a unique set of challenges. From dealing with seasonal depression to managing anxious thoughts, it’s important to stay on top of your mental health.
By taking mindful steps toward managing uncomfortable thoughts as they arise, getting the support we need, and being honest with ourselves and others when we're struggling, it is my hope that we all come out of this season feeling more balanced and more supported than ever before.
Let's work together to #endthestigma surrounding mental health and to continue creating small ripples of change in ourselves, our homes and our communities—not just on #BellLetsTalk Day, but every day.
Sending love your way,
BELL LET'S TALK RESOURCES:
- Visit Kids Help Phone for resources and activities for supporting yourself and others.
- Discover strategies you can practice at home like self-care, mindfulness, calm breathing or at-home workout videos to help you stay active.
- Learn about the Canadian Mental Health Association's plan for mental health care in Canada.
- Visit School Mental Health Ontario for mental health resources for teachers and classrooms.