Winter can be a challenging time.
Days are shorter, nights are longer, the temperature drops, and seasonal festivities are not fun for everybody.
The Winter season, particularly religious holidays and New Year can induce stress, anxiety and loneliness for many.
Winter can be associated with greater feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially around Christmas and New Year. The Samaritans get more calls at this time of year than at any other time.
It’s thought the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across northern Europe. It can affect people of any age, including children.
Staying mentally well is just as important as keeping physically well through the winter months.
General advice from our team
Stay in touch with any professionals working with you on your mental well-being and keep emergency contact details handy just in case. If you DO have a crisis you can call the Bournemouth and District Samaritans on 01202 551999 or Weymouth Samaritans on 01305 771777 or simply call 999.
If things start to get difficult, seek help quickly, don’t let things build up. First things first, talk to someone.
These few weeks are not a good time to be stopping or reducing medication without the right advice – stick to what you have been advised or talk to a professional if something is bothering you about your medicines.
Try to stay physically well. Coughs and colds can make you feel lousy; have a flu jab, wave from a distance at poorly friends and relatives, eat healthily and keep warm.
Dorset Mind Top Five Tips for keeping mentally well this Winter
1. Stay Connected
There is strong evidence that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.
This winter, try to maintain your connections with other people. Suggestions from our team;-
- Call friends and family for a chat
- Book regular social meet-ups in your diary every month
- Join a club, support group (ours are open all through the holiday period) or check in regularly with a significant person
- Tell someone close to you what to do if your communication tails off… agree a plan to stay connected with them even when it seems too hard to do
- Stay sensibly and responsibly connected on social media follow us on Twitter @DorsetMind, Facebook @DorsetMind1947 or Instagram @DorsetMind
2. Be active
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. But it is hard in the winter when the days are short and the weather cold and wet. But little things can make a difference;-
- Wrap up warm and take a walk, arrange to go the gym with a friend to keep your motivation up, walk to the shop instead of driving, take the stairs instead of the lift
- Do an activity with a group or a friend. It’s easier to stick to a plan if there’s more than one of you. Why not try our Active in Mind group?
- Get up and make your bed – this one small thing is proven to help you feel more upbeat about your day
- Read inspirational quotes, books, tweets, blogs about how being active is good for the brain
- Get off the bus one stop earlier to work, count the extra steps
3. Take notice
Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present, directly enhances your well-being. And that savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities.
Winter brings some wonderful things to appreciate, particularly in this beautiful county of Dorset;-
- Try some mindfulness techniques, find information online or download an App on to your pc, phone or tablet
- Photograph things that you notice or that make you smile
- Interact with nature, even if it’s just watching from a window or walking around the garden
- Sit quietly for 5 minutes and sense how things even sound different when its cold outside
- Note how the moon changes every day – it can be quite extraordinary in the winter
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift people out of depression.
Why not use the winter season to learn something new?
- Find out something new about your friends, family and colleagues
- Sign up for a class that spans the winter months
- Set a goal to read the news every day or read new books
- Learn how to do a crossword or other puzzle – look for ideas online
- Research something you’ve always wondered about and make a notebook of things you learn
Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in well-being.
- Send a kind or happy note or email and make someone else feel good
- Sign up to volunteer for a cause close to your heart
- Offer to help someone with a task
- Give warm smiles to strangers
- Warmly greet people important to you and tell them how much they mean to you
- Check and contribute to ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ online or on social media
Get plenty of sleep
Not getting enough sleep can affect your physical and your mental health. Establish a bedtime routine to help you relax before you go to bed. Make sure where you sleep is comfortable. If you are having trouble sleeping seek help to resolve stress and worries, consider causes such as medication, caffeine or physical problems. The Sleep Council has some great advice.
Try a Light Box
One final tip. If you find that your mood is really suffering as result of the shorter, darker, day, you may be one of those many people who experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). One relatively inexpensive self-treatment for SAD is the use of a ‘light box’. These light boxes can be found on most of the usual online sites.