We’ve been reading the book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. Which has us reframing the way we think about winter. By winter, Katherine May means not just the cold season, but “a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.”
This time of year is not short of ill feelings for many people. Some may be feeling like they are in a fallow period—feeling isolated, rejected, or stuck. Whereas others may feel like there’s not much to look forward to since wrapping up the holidays and returning to normal life. Of course, some people quite literally are enduring winter weather in colder climates and may feel empty with this season. Regardless, fallow feelings are common this time of year—maybe even more so as we head into another year of uncertainty surrounding Covid-19.
These blue feelings are also known as the “winter blues”—which is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. However, the winter blues are a common feeling and often more mild than serious, usually clearing up on its own quickly.
As we reflect on Katherine May’s definition of wintering, should we still refer to this as the “winter blues”, or is it more so a time for our bodies to get rest?
Winter can be a time to heal, and sometimes healing looks like rest. So, use this winter to focus on rest and retreat, embracing it like a warm hug.
Here are eight ideas you can use this winter season to rest, reset, and stave off the winter blues.
Get Plenty of Rest
Rest can be challenging to define since it can look different to everyone. But rest is any
behavior aimed at increasing physical or mental well-being. For some, rest can be active,
such as going for a walk outside, or passive, like taking 10 minutes to sit down and breathe
Rest is vital for improving mental health, increasing concentration and memory, building a
more robust immune system, reducing stress, improving mood, and boosting metabolism.
However you choose to rest, the habit of taking restful moments helps you recover and
recharge from physical and mental effort.
Try Light Therapy
There are many mental health benefits to sunlight. Exposure to sunlight is thought to
increase the brain’s release of a hormone called. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood
and helping a person feel calm and focused.
During the winter season, natural sunlight is significantly decreased, making it difficult to
get enough exposure. Light therapy boxes can effectively mimic the sun, shining much brighter than ordinary indoor lighting and is not damaging. If you choose to try light
therapy, it is typically recommended to sit directly in front of it each day for 30 minutes or
more, depending on your doctor’s recommendation.
Winter can be seen as dreary, but it can also be beautiful. Bundle up and take a walk in the
wintry landscape, focusing on how different nature looks as it “sleeps” during the winter
season. A brisk walk outside while practicing mindfulness—or exercising safely if you’re
able—will boost dopamine levels, which can stave off the cold-weather blues.
Call A Friend
Maybe you can’t go out as much these days due to weather or the ongoing pandemic, but
you can stay connected with your friends and family in other ways. Connecting with friends
and family through phone calls and video chats is a means of self-care that can help you and
your loved ones feel less alone or isolated in stressful situations.
Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods. It
can also enhance cognitive function and alleviate low self-esteem and social withdrawal
According to the Mayo Clinic, you need about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75
minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous
activity. The guidelines suggest spreading out this exercise during a week, aiming for around 30–60 minutes of exercise three to five times a week; any more or less may decrease the benefits.
Focus on cooking and eating nutritious foods. Cooking can help soothe stress, build self-
esteem, and curb negative thinking by focusing the mind on following a recipe. In addition,
eating healthy foods sets you up for fewer mood fluctuations, an overall happier outlook on
life, and an improved ability to focus.
Studies show that healthy diets can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety, even
more so if you add in mood-boosting foods such as fatty fish (like salmon), dark chocolate,
fermented foods (like yogurt or kombucha), bananas, whole grain oats, and berries.
Some people can benefit from antidepressant medication treatment, especially if their
winter blues symptoms are severe. Talk with your doctor about medicine that may support
you during this time.
Reach Out for Professional Help
Reaching out to a professional therapist is not a sign of weakness but a significant step
toward the path of self-care. Taking care of your mental health strengthens your ability to
cope with everyday stressors and helps you handle challenges more effectively.
Those experiencing the winter blues might have trouble sleeping and some sadness.
However, the winter blues are not an extreme lack of motivation. If your feelings are more
intense or long-lasting, you might be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD
interferes with your daily functioning over a significant period. SAD is common in northern
parts of the United States where winter days last longer. A key feature of SAD is that it
follows a regular pattern—appearing each season change and going away several months
later, usually during spring and summer.
If you’re experiencing feelings that are too much to manage, contact us today to schedule
your first appointment.