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Have you got the ‘winter blues’?

November 1, 2021

Whether your year seems to have flown by or the months have been dragging, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s November already! The clocks have gone back, the mornings and evenings are dark and it’s often cold, wet and windy. We’ve already explored how to deal with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in a previous blog. This time, let’s think about the different ways in which winter can get us all down.

The prospect of winter 2021 might feel especially challenging with the warnings of a tough few months ahead, not least due to ongoing Covid infections as well as the normal seasonal flu. Concerns about isolation could also be contributing to how we feel – those who’ve been happily seeing friends outdoors in the warmer and lighter months might find the idea of meeting up inside more worrying.

If we’re dreading the season ahead, it’s important to make sure we plan fun and rewarding things that we can look forward to. Grab your diary and aim to schedule in one event, treat or celebration each week that you know will bring you enjoyment. Not everybody is a big fan of Christmas. If this is you, you might find our blog on surviving Christmas gives you some ideas for making it more enjoyable!

The darkness can be a major contributory factor in how we feel as we move into winter. We may leave the house in the dark in the morning to go to work, and return in the dark too. This can make us feel gloomy, or just want to hibernate – and if we’re less inclined to get out of the house and do things in the evenings this in itself can lead to a drop in our mood.

It’s important to make sure we get as much natural light during the day as possible – even a 20 minute walk at lunchtime can give you a boost. While it’s easy to imagine that winter is constantly dark and grey, there are always some bright, clear and sunny days, and it will help our mood if we make the most of them.

Some people will feel apprehensive about going out when it’s dark, which is actually a very natural evolutionary response – humans are not nocturnal animals! If you’re anxious about doing things in the dark, think of ways you can increase your confidence and keep safe. For instance, if you need to walk your dog at night you could wear reflective clothing, and get a flashing collar for the dog! If you have to walk or drive somewhere, it’s worth scoping out the route in advance so you can stick to well-lit and populated areas, and make sure someone knows when you’re leaving and when you’re due to arrive.

Challenging your predictions of winter might also help to improve your frame of mind. Capture the negative thoughts you have about the season. Are you thinking something along the lines of “I hate this! The next three months are going to be miserable. I won’t be able to cope with the gloom. Nothing good happens in winter!”?

Take some time to think back over previous winters – perhaps leaving out 2020! – and ask yourself whether there have been things you’ve enjoyed. Perhaps a sparkling snowy day, a trip away, a party or family occasion, Sunday lunches in the pub, or relaxing at home in front of the fire. When you look back, were things as bad as you expected them to be? If you did have a bit of a rotten time, how did you cope, and help yourself to get through it? What could you try this year?

If you’re feeling particularly low or anxious about the winter months, coming to ieso for online CBT could help you approach the season more positively.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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