The days are getting shorter. We’re already starting to see fewer hours of sunlight. And it won’t be too much longer now until we’re spending more of our days in the dark than in the light.
Add in colder weather and it’s no surprise our mental health can take a hit during the late fall and winter months.
Luckily, those of use who struggle with mental health during the colder, darker days can take steps to prepare and combat the blahs.
Here are a few ways to prepare for the dreary months ahead:
Spend time with people.
We are social creatures by nature. The past few years have reminded all of us that being around people, physically together in the same space and sharing moments together, is an important aspect of keeping us mentally healthy and feeling better. As the dark days draw near, do what you can to find ways to get together with people, whether that’s joining a club, socializing with friends, getting together with family, etc. Being with people helps us feel connected when otherwise it’s so easy to feel isolated. If you can’t get together with people, make an effort to have calls with friends to catch up.
Take care of your physical health.
If you’re starting to feel down, go for a walk or a bicycle ride. Being outside, in the fresh air, can do a world of good, even if it’s just for a short time. Take an exercise class. Do something physical — activity can release the feel-good chemicals in your brain that combat feelings of depression or isolation. Consider, too, what you’re eating. Comfort food might come in the form of snacks that taste good but don’t do a lot to provide the right kind of nutrition that can help stave off feeling low. Fix yourself a nice, healthy meal, drink more water, and see if that helps.
Find a routine that works for you.
Do your best to go to sleep and wake up at the same time. This will help you get a consistent amount of sleep, which will help your body get the rest it needs and to recover and keep up your energy. Start each morning with breakfast — whatever kind of breakfast you like and what works best for you — and make sure you have enough time to get ready for work without rushing. At the end of the day, give yourself time to unwind. Turn off or diminish the use of electronics 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed to let your brain start to get ready for sleep.
Take some vitamin D.
As the daylight hours get shorter and the sunlight is in limited supply, some people start to take vitamin D supplements to help replace what they’re no longer getting from the sun. Vitamin D can help boost your mood, in addition to helping to absorb calcium from food and keep your bones healthy. Since the sun isn’t around as much to help naturally provide the vitamin D we need, supplements can help.
Take a break from technology at night.
Blue light emitted from smartphones and tablets messes with our brains when we try to go to sleep. It keeps us awake and our neurons firing, which prevents us from falling into a deep, restful sleep. By turning off and putting down your phone an hour before going to bed, you’ll help your brain calm down and be ready to sleep. This also means resisting the urge to look at your phone before falling asleep, even if you use your phone as an alarm.
We all know the winter months can be tough, with so much to do and a decreased amount of energy. But taking care of yourself and making a few changes to your day to help keep your mental health in good shape, you might find it all a little easier.
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