By Tori Taylor, January 18 2019—
The winter can be a hard time for a lot of people. Some of us crawl into caves during the winter, not out of them. More often than not, the cold weather slump starts to take hold right around this time. Finances get low, stress swings high, days get shorter and the memory of flip-flops and bikini tops drifts further and further away.
Not surprisingly, a significant number of people experience some form of seasonal affective disorder, better known colloquially as the “winter blues”. If you’ve noticed that your energy has plummeted, your mood has declined and your sleep has become irregular, come join the club.
A few years ago, I started looking into how to better manage this dismal situation. Every person is different and I know that what works for some doesn’t work for all. That being said, here are three of my most effective tools.
You are what you eat:
If you aren’t feeling great, more often than not, it’s because you aren’t eating properly for your body. Dark green vegetables work wonders. The iron, B vitamins, folate and magnesium in them contribute to greater immune function and elevated moods. Fruits and veggies make your body feel better than processed foods. In the colder months, when the sunshine is less frequent, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet with lots of vitamins and micronutrients. Grab an apple, orange, cucumber, snap peas, dark berries, pineapple or carrot to reap the bountiful benefits.
Anything you can find with vitamin B12 and vitamin D will help keep your mind clear and mood stable. Dark chocolate, the kind that contains the highest possible amount of cocoa, is healthy and mood-elevating. Make a homemade cup of hot cocoa. Try using nut milk and raw honey or real maple syrup instead of processed sugar. Anything made with care and love from scratch is always better than the instant alternative.
Walk it off:
Daily exercise is known to elevate your mood. You can jog, walk, elliptical, cycle or swim. Go to a yoga class or try a kick-boxing class. Most gyms and studios offer discounts around this time of year. If all else fails, even just walking around the mall with a latte in hand can be helpful. Actively using your body will get your blood flowing and helps pull your wallowing mind out of a slump.
It can be hard to find the motivation to exercise when the world seems dim and stressful. However, being distracted by a healthy heart rate has always brought me out of my head and into the present. Being mindfully present instead of trapped in your own emotions is your best weapon against the winter blues. You don’t have to do anything dramatic — just put on a pair of pants and find a place to move your limbs around.
Get that vitamin D:
I am a secret tanning bed addict — thought that’s less of a secret now, I suppose. However, I don’t recommend taking up the fake-n-bake habit if you value your skin. It is a well known fact that tanning beds cause serious damage. Thankfully, there are many other ways to get vitamin D that are not served with a side of skin cancer or rapid aging. Sunlight lamps are amazing and available for delivery right to your door via Amazon. They start in price at around $30. These little lamps imitate a tiny sun. They work wonders at sustaining healthy moods while the real sun takes its seasonal hiatus. Another way to get vitamin D is to sit by a big window while studying or hanging out with friends.
Buildings at the University of Calgary have beautiful windows that allow for loads of sunshine to pour through. Even if you’re not feeling too cheery, sitting by a window will make a difference. And of course, go for a walk or winter jog where you can combine the aforementioned power of exercise with a dose of sunshine. Wrap up with scarves, mitts, leggings, snow pants, snowsuits, parkas, wool socks and boots.
Ask for help:
The most important piece to getting through tough times is the support of family and friends. If you are experiencing low moods, it’s important to speak with the people who love you. If you can, make an appointment with a therapist or counsellor and be open about what is going on. Depression is a very real part of human existence and having a support system is incredibly vital. U of C has a mental health facility that is easily accessible and appointments can be made online through the Wellness Centre’s website. For full-time students, services are covered in your student fees. Don’t be embarrassed to sit down and talk with someone who can help you.