Looking after your mental health through the winter

With dropping temperatures and shorter days, we might feel the need to sleep for longer, notice a change in our appetite, or find it difficult to do things we normally enjoy.

As we continue through winter, we have some information from mental health charity, Mind on how to spot the signs that the winter might be impacting your mental health, as well as suggestions for support and self-help.

What self-care can I try?

If you feel your mood is low during the winter, there are some things you can try to help you feel better. These are just suggestions, and they may not always work for you. Different things work for different people at different times.  

1. Make the most of natural light

Some of us find it helps to spend time in natural light, for example going for walks, spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window. 

2. Plan ahead for the winter

If you can, try and do some essential tasks ahead of the winter. For example, try to make meals in advance and freeze them if you know you find this difficult sometimes during the winter.

Try and plan times to relax, particularly if winter can be a busy time for you. It is okay if you need to re-arrange plans or take time for yourself if you feel you need to.   

Mind have information on relaxation and managing stress that might also help with planning ahead.

3. Talk to someone

It can be hard to reach out when you're not feeling well, but it might help to share how you're feeling. Talking to someone who understands us and listens to us can be beneficial to our mood. You could try talking to:

•    Someone close to you that you feel comfortable with 
•    A helpline or a befriending service
•    A peer support service
•    A professional, such as a GP or therapist. 
Mind has more information about talking to someone about your mental health on their website

4. Look after your physical health

Looking after your physical health can make a difference to how you feel emotionally. 

If you can, try and do some regular physical activity during the winter. Physical activity can be very effective in lifting mood and increasing energy levels. It doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous. It could be yoga or walking, or even activities like housework or gardening. Eating well, getting enough Vitamin D, getting a good sleep and looking after your hygiene can also all be helpful for your mood during the winter.

Mind has more information on looking after your wellbeing on their website.

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience at particular times of the year, most commonly during winter. 

Most of us are affected by seasons changing in some way, and it’s normal to feel a bit sluggish during the winter. However, for some of us the effect on our mood and energy level can be much greater, often impacting day to day life. If we already experience symptoms of depression at other times of the year, these could be made worse by SAD.

Some of us might find we can use self-care strategies to help manage our SAD, and some of us might find extra support helpful. If you find that your SAD symptoms are starting to have a significant impact on your day-to-day life, you might find it helpful to talk to your GP. They will be able to give you further information and discuss treatment options with you.