In the depths of winter, when all you want to do is eat soup and curl up under your covers to wait for spring, it can be easy to forget to do the things that keep you feeling human — but prioritizing your well-being is especially important during the winter months, when it’s estimated that one in five of us suffer from either the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder.
Winter can feel especially tough on this side of the holiday season, when images of chestnuts roasting over an open fire and sugar plums dancing aren’t enough to distract from the frigid temperatures and gray skies, and the short days make spring feel like it’s an eternity away.
There are things you can do to stay on top of your mental health game even if you’re short on vitamin D, though. Practicing self-care looks different for everyone (as it should), but at its heart it means you’re taking action to protect your own health and happiness. Here are some tips to get you started:
Stick to a routine
It’s tempting to stay in bed for as long as possible to avoid the cold and darkness of the early morning — or to go to bed earlier and earlier because night comes so early and it’s miserable outside — but you really won’t be doing yourself any favors. For some people, winter means feeling lethargic and unmotivated, so doing small things like waking up at the same time every morning or listening to a favorite podcast every day on the way home from work can help restore some normalcy to what can be a bleak time of year.
But don’t be afraid to switch things up
February may be the shortest month, but it can feel never-ending when it’s cold out. You don’t have to make major changes if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, but switching things up can be an act of self-care; cooking new recipes, trying a hobby you normally wouldn’t or even changing your hairstyle can all help you shake the blues.
Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Stress and anxiety can make wintertime blues feel even worse, and exercise is a known reliever of both.
Getting outdoors within a couple of hours of waking up is especially helpful, so adding a morning walk or jog to your daily routine might be just what the doctor ordered.
Give yourself a break
Self care is both a physical and a mental act of self-preservation and love, and sometimes what you need most is just to give both your body and your mind a time-out, especially during winter when our immune systems are working in overdrive to keep us healthy. So grab a book, make some tea, turn on The Great British Baking Show, and get recharging: It’s the least you can do.