By Kate Gare
The clocks have gone back in many countries, and darker evenings are upon us.
With December around the corner, many of us may be feeling anxious or unnerved by the change in seasons, and the thought of increased time spent indoors.
Coupled with the coronavirus crisis, it is little surprise this winter can seem like a gloomy prospect. We are living with a lack of control over our lives, and the uncertainty of how things will look in the future - particularly the upcoming holidays.
However, there are things we can do to battle the blues. And by working to change our mindset and focus on the things we can control, we boost our resilience ready to deal with the challenges ahead.
Here are my tips on how to not just survive the winter months, but to thrive and stay motivated into next year:
1. PRIORITISE SLEEP
We feel inclined to hibernate when it gets darker so much earlier. While this is not possible, we should take notice of our body’s natural response to the change in light and darkness – our circadian rhythm.
Most people know that sleep is good for their health, yet so many people go to bed later than their body needs. I love it when my clients consistently go to bed 30-60 minutes earlier, and so do they!
Take a bath, listen to music, or read to help you to wind down and relax, and ditch the screens and electronics an hour before sleep. Prioritise going to bed at a decent hour to give yourself a full night’s rest.
2. SEEK THE SUNLIGHT
Many of us are aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD syndrome) and the importance of natural light for our mental and physical health; sunshine and fresh air work wonders for topping up our mood and our vitamin D! Yet, when the days are shorter and the weather less kind, it can be tricky to find the energy to head outside. But it is worth it.
Aim for a brisk walk several times a week. Wrapping up warm to enjoy a crisp and bright winter’s day is wonderfully restorative, even if it is only for 10 minutes.
3. CREATE ‘HYGGE’ AT HOME
‘Hygge’ is the Danish word for ‘cosy’ and the concept of making a warm and welcoming space in our homes. I love this idea as winter is the perfect excuse to snuggle up. By focussing on self-care and nurturing ourselves, ‘Hygge’ can also help us to reframe the thought of spending more time indoors.
Think about how to create a little ‘sanctuary’ where you can relax and feel snug. It could be having a clutter-free area with a favourite warm blanket to cuddle up in, softer lighting and scented candles. See your ‘Hygge’ place as an opportunity to ‘check in’ with yourself; reflect on your goals and your plans, treat yourself with compassion, or perhaps introduce a new self-care practice such as gratitude journaling.
4. PLAN THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Remember how exciting it felt as a child counting down to a birthday, Christmas Day, or a visit to the playground (if you were anything like my children)? Having the anticipation of upcoming events or even chats with loved ones is increasingly being found to be an important way to support ourselves during such challenging times.
I realise coronavirus restrictions and the accompanying financial pressures are putting bigger experiences on the back burner for many of us. The trick is to not focus on what we are missing out on. Instead, we should fill our diaries with small, regular things to look forward to.
Maybe a tough working week is more bearable thanks to the family time you have organised at the weekend. Even a hard day is tolerable if you can savour a favourite takeaway and / or TV series with a loved one that evening. With positive plans in place, you will support yourself to keep moving forward.
5. BOOST YOUR HEALTH AND IMMUNITY
In other words, eat well and move well. Our immune systems are under pressure during the winter from colds and viruses - including Covid-19 - so we need to improve our protection by fuelling with nutritious food. We also feel better both mentally and physically when we know we are nourishing ourselves properly.
Endorphins and the joy of movement also increase our immunity and energy levels. To prevent exercise boredom, vary your sessions to include yoga, walks in the park, running or even an online workout. It is all good and you will reap the benefits.
6. CREATE CONNECTION
The winter months do make us more inclined to ‘bunker down’ and isolate but we risk feeling a sense of disconnection from others. It is important we maintain our relationships with friends and family, whether in person or via Zoom.
Connections is one of the main pillars of building a happy and enriched life, so try to re-think the virtual catch ups as a vital way to stay connected. By taking the initiative and planning time for our loved ones, we can combat the loneliness of the colder season, while the support of close relationships helps further boost our immune systems and wellbeing.
7. GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY
The approaching holiday season, increased coronavirus and economic pressures, and harsh weather conditions present various challenges for the charity sector. It is particularly tough for food banks, homeless charities and welfare groups looking after vulnerable and older people.
Why not consider supporting a non-profit project near you by volunteering your time? It is well known that giving back boosts our own mental health and helps us to feel valued by others. Most charities are operating well under Covid controls and the regular commitment will enable you to meet other like-minded souls, and even forge connections for the future.
I passionately believe we all deserve to have a brilliant, healthy, happy life full of meaning and love.
© Kate Gare, everylife 2020