Winter Weather Blues: Tips to Stay Nourished Inside and Out
As the excitement of the holiday season fades and we settle into the winter months, many of us, children and adults alike, find ourselves experiencing a bit of winter blues. The days are shorter, the nights are colder and darker. We spend more time indoors and, in some cases, see friends and family less. This can lead to problems with sleep and focus, as well as feelings of anxiety and sadness. This week, we are sharing our top tips to stay positive this time of year. And remember – the official start of Spring is less than two months away (March 19, 2024)!
Prioritize Good Sleep
Often when we are feeling down, our sleep schedule is affected – the problem is cyclical as getting too much or too little sleep affects our mood and energy levels and our mood affects our sleep and so on. The best way to combat this is to stick to a regular sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene habits. This means setting a bedtime that ensures you are getting enough sleep per night (for most people, this is 7-8 hours but everyone is different) Set yourself up for success by avoiding caffeine and electronics before bed.
Families might create a winter bedtime routine – something cozy to look forward to will set the whole family up for a good night’s rest. Perhaps you can enjoy a warm cup of tea or golden milk before reading a bedtime story. Or maybe you can take turns sharing what you’d like to dream about. We also suggest in investing in good quality pajamas you and your family really enjoy – sometimes, something as small as feeling good in your nighttime wear can lift your spirits. We love Hanna Andersson for family matching sets, of course, and Desmond and Dempsey for gorgeous printed adult sets (our favorite print is the fun floral Persephone).
Light therapy lamps are a great solution for many who have trouble waking up on cold, dark mornings. They mimic natural sunlight and many can be set on timers to help your body wake up naturally. We love Hatch’s Restore Light & Sound Machine but there are plenty on the market to match all preferences and styles.
Move Your Body
We can’t overemphasize the importance of moving your body each day, even in small ways. Ideally, we would all get exercise everyday – and many days, that activity would be outside in the sunlight. While that may not be possible every day, any movement will give your body and mind a little boost. On days you really aren’t up for it, be kind to yourself; do a gentle stretching or yoga routine in your pajamas when you first wake up or before bed. Try to include at least one family activity per week that involves movement – anything from a walk around the neighborhood to ice skating to a full ski trip counts!
This time of year, focus on nourishing your body. To us, this means focusing on foods that are delicious and hearty, but are also nourishing instead of purely comforting. Soups made with bone or vegetable broths, pureed vegetables, slow cooked proteins, and warm oatmeal with berries are all top choices for us this time of year. On a snowy night, we love indulgences that still allow us to pack in the greens, like a warm spinach artichoke dip or goat cheese dip with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.
Nourishment can extend to your mind and soul, as well. This time of year, it’s particularly important to be intentional about this. This can be as simple as making an upbeat playlist for your commute or downloading a morning meditation before bed so you’re more likely to listen to it in the morning. Carve out small windows of time to do things that you truly enjoy – take 30 minutes to sit by the fire with a good book, put your favorite music on while cooking, or stop by a well-loved café for an appetizer on your way home.
Embrace the Season
Each season brings with it different pros and cons. Accept that this time of year often comes with a slower pace; if you acknowledge that the winter can be a time of rest, the coming months might feel restorative rather than slow and bleak. We also love building in traditions specific to the time of year that you and your family can look forward to time and time again. Why not host a family winter tea party? A neighborhood après-ski party? Fondue Fridays in January? Saturday pancakes & pajamas brunch? These types of fun traditions promote togetherness, joy, and laughter, and they celebrate the season rather than shy away from it. Finally, we suggest adding in small touches around your home that will make little moments cozier – layer warm blankets on the couches and arm chairs, lay out slippers by the bed the night before, light a winter candle, and invest in fluffy robes (Brooklinen makes a great fluffy robe!) for each member of the family.
Social support is vital to thrive, especially during periods of increased stress or anxiety. Make a point to spend quality time with supportive loved ones and family members during these months. Check in with your children often and trust your gut; if you’re worried your child is struggling, keep the lines of communication open, offer support, and find a professional they can speak to, if needed. Don’t forget to check on your elderly friends and neighbors who might not reach out when they need help. And, of course, if you or a loved one is struggling with finding positive ways to cope, seek assistance from a professional.
Winter Blues VS More Serious Disorders
While many people feel more anxiety this time of year, it is critical to stay connected to yourself and to those around you and watch for signs of something more serious. If you, your child, or a loved one has any signs of or feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide, it is crucial to get professional help immediately. You might ask your primary care physician for a recommendation; Psychology Today also has a directory of mental health providers.
In addition, Seasonal Affective Disorder may have similar symptoms to the common “winter blues” but can be more serious. The National Institute of Mental Health defines Seasonal Affective Disorder as:
SAD is a type of depression characterized by a recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting about 4−5 months out of the year. The signs and symptoms of SAD include those associated with depression as well as disorder-specific symptoms that differ for winter-pattern versus summer-pattern SAD.