In a world that is constantly changing, there are a few things you can count on. In Alberta, that’s winter. And that means cold weather, darker days and longer nights. For many of us, these cause real mental health challenges from just feeling down to the very serious symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
This year may prove even more challenging as we face a potential second wave of Covid-19, the measures to control the spread and a holiday season like never before. So, while mall walking and large holiday gatherings may be out, we still have some tips to support your mental health.
Let the light in.
You are not a vampire (we hope). Get outside during the day if you can. While indoors, keep your curtains open and spend as much time as you can near the windows. Even if it’s cloudy, getting some daylight can help boost your mood.
Physical activity is a great tool to help you manage your mental health. A lunchtime walk around the block or a stroll after work is a great option any time of year. But if cold weather isn’t your hot cup of tea, why not try a new exercise routine at home? There are lots of fun online classes, apps and videos ranging from ballet to yoga and hula hooping. (The best part? You’re at home so no one can judge your moves.)
Try to keep a normal sleep schedule
Yes, we hear it too—the call of a cozy comforter and fluffy pillow. But over-sleeping can worsen the symptoms of the winter blues. Try to maintain your regular sleep habits as much as possible.
Eat a healthy diet
Fall and winter may be the seasons of snow, but they are also the seasons of treats. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good piece of pumpkin loaf or gingerbread as much as anyone. When cravings strike, try to reach for more complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, whole grain bread or a banana. These can boost your serotonin levels with no sugar-crash later (written while brushing off cookie crumbs from the keyboard).
The call of nature
Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it might be snowing. But, you can still bundle up and get outside. Walking in nature has been shown to reduce anger, improve positive affect and lower blood pressure. Spring and summer may be pretty but winter has its own particular splendor and beauty, so go explore and find your wild side.
As stated earlier, big gatherings may be out, but social interaction is still important and there are plenty of ways to stay warm, safe and connected. Build a bonfire, make some hot chocolate, spread out some chairs and have a toasty outdoor gathering with your cohort. Added bonus—masks keep your nose warm!
When was the last time you wrote a letter? Find a pen pal and start corresponding. Nothing is as satisfying as opening the mail to find a letter instead of a bill.
Be kind to yourself
With so much change and uncertainty on top of colder, darker days, it is hard to stay positive. Everyone is bound to have a bad day once in a while, so be self aware and take time to self reflect. Feeling sad, worried, angry or scared for two weeks or more could signal a problem. Find support, such as a psychologist, if your problem starts to negatively impact your life.
Alberta Blue Cross® members can visit Balance®—our online wellness platform—through our member site and app for resources and trackers to help you maintain your health and wellness this winter.
Here are some more resources to help support your mental health through the next weeks and months.