Sometimes the winter months can take a toll on our emotional and physical wellbeing, especially for those who are used to being outdoors during the summer months. With shorter days and colder temperatures, energy levels can drop, stress and anxiety can rise, and the lack of daylight can throw our circadian rhythms off balance causing sleep issues. It is important to still take care of our emotional and physical wellness so we don’t slip backwards into bad habits and reverse the great lifestyle choices we have made.
This topic is close to my heart because I grew up in Alaska where the winter season is long and the days are even shorter. Although I didn’t often experience the winter blues myself, I knew adults and people who moved to Alaska from out of state who were affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Since I grew up in Alaska, it was all I had known and I was used to the weather, but I found that being involved with school activities, working part time, and staying connected to my local community kept me busy and happy. Whether I was enjoying activities inside, or outdoors sledding, attempting to ski, or ice skating, I was able to fare much better through the shorter days and cold weather. Here are some of my best tips to keep well during the winter:
- Let there be light! Get a light box. They come in many styles, colors, and prices. Light therapy can be useful in regulating your circadian rhythm and for increasing your mood. Look for a light box that emits 10,000 lux and try to get 20-30 minutes of direct exposure each morning. A couple of great light box companies include Northern Light Technologies and Carex Health Brands.
- Eat Well! Eat food that helps boost your mood such as eggs, Wild Alaskan Salmon, nuts, seeds, berries, leafy greens, green tea, and even a little dark chocolate! These foods are high in vitamins (such as B vitamins), minerals (like magnesium), protein, healthy fat and antioxidants. They can help stabilize mood, appetite, and sleep.
- Exercise! Bundle up, get out, and play! Have a snowball fight, make a snow man, go skiing or snow shoeing. If that’s not your cup of tea, take a nice walk and breathe in some cool fresh air. While regular exercise has a big impact on stress and anxiety, it can also improve memory, helps you sleep better, and can boost your overall mood.
- Don’t be a hermit! Make sure you still make plans to get out with your friends or loved ones to socialize. Go for coffee or a drink. Having regular healthy interaction with others is great for your emotional wellbeing.
- Escape into a book, or make your own story! If you do choose to stay inside, get cozy and read a book to exercise your brain. Not only does reading improve brain function, but it may also help reduce your anxiety. If I ever started to feel down or lonely while in Alaska, I would write stories or read. I found it useful to lose myself in an amazing book or create my own world to occupy my brain.