I often prepare my blogs in advance and this particular one was written last year whilst I was in a ‘winter wellness’ mindset. At that time I had no idea what 2020 had in store for us and the unique challenges we would face this winter with the Covid-19 pandemic and the necessary restrictions on our day to day lives. Taking care of ourselves this winter is more important than ever so please take the time to read through these tips and where necessary adapt them to the restrictions where you live – you can find up to date information at: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
As the days get shorter and the weather colder, it’s important that we make time to take care of our bodies and our minds. Winter is a natural time for slowing down, resting, protecting and nurturing.
Research shows that 57% of British adults find their overall mood worse in the winter compared to the summer. 29% of people report experiencing some symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder such as anxiety, low energy levels and lack of self-esteem, whilst 8% of people suffer from a more acute form of the condition.
Simple lifestyle changes can help us to enjoy the season more and protect us against a decline in our mood.
Fresh air and movement
When natural light levels are low we don’t produce as much Vitamin D, and this is vital to our mental wellbeing. So, whilst there may not be much of it about get out there to soak up any natural light you can and maybe consider taking a supplement too (please see your GP to confirm whether this is necessary).
It can be very tempting to ‘batten down the hatches’ and stay indoors at this time of year, however research shows that when we are less active and are isolated from others we are more at risk of depression. Exercise is the best remedy and nothing beats getting out for a walk. If, like me, you are lucky enough to live by the beach or beautiful woodland, get yourself wrapped up and get out there. Take a flask of something warm with you and invite a friend to join you. Maybe even take some photos of the beautiful wintery landscapes.
Another great way to keep moving is to get out in the garden. There are plenty of tasks that need doing at this time of year such as pruning, raking up leaves and putting out feeders for the birds – you’ll be warm in no time! It’s also the season to plant bulbs, which is a lovely way to look forward to the Spring.
Take care of your body
It’s natural at this time of year to crave sugar and carbohydrates, but there are also lots of beautiful seasonal fruits and vegetables available which will give you vital vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system. Foods such as porridge, soups and stews can be so comforting. Why not try a new recipe? There are lots of FREE ideas on the BBC Food website.
It’s also important to keep hydrated – and I don’t just mean with hot chocolate! Try carrying a refillable water bottle round with you to encourage this and track what you drink throughout the day.
A good night’s sleep is so important for our mental wellbeing. Whilst I wouldn’t encourage full on hibernation (although I’m sure we are all tempted), I would encourage keeping a good routine. Check out my previous blog for sleep tips and if you are struggling you may like the Calm App which features lots of lovely Sleep Stories to help you drift off.
Take care of your mind
Remember this is a natural time of year for us to slow down, and give yourself permission to let some things go – don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get everything done and do everything for everyone else. Say no sometimes and reduce your commitments to create space for rest.
Focus on what you have achieved over the past year, the things that have gone well and the things you are grateful for. Research has shown that keeping a daily gratitude list can really boost your mood.
Pause, take a moment to be still and look around you. Practice mindfulness.
Loneliness can be a big problem at this time of year as people hide themselves away at home. Make a point of staying in touch with friends and family. Get dates in the diary to meet up with people one to one or via Zoom. Remember, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, so if you are struggling confide in others.
Prepare for Christmas
Christmas festivities can be a source of stress as we try to continue with our usual day-to-day tasks whilst also running around buying gifts, planning social events and managing tricky family dynamics. It can help to plan your approach to Christmas and to reflect on what this season means to you. Last year I read ‘Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year’ by Beth Kempton, which is a great little book. You can also read my previous festive blogs – ‘Hygge’, ‘No Ho Ho?’ and ‘Keep Calm … It’s nearly Christmas’.
Prioritise your Winter Wellbeing
It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season and forget to priorities our wellbeing, so I would encourage you to write yourself a list of all the things you can do to take care of yourself and put this somewhere you will see it on a regular basis – maybe make use of the reminders function on your mobile phone, use a diary, post-it-notes or a journal – anything that will help you to stay well this Winter!
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Winter season x