Have the winter blues got you down? You’re not alone. Millions of other adolescents and adults are also struggling to cope with short days and long nights. Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods just yet. While the shortest, darkest days have passed, the gloomiest one is still lurking around the corner.
The third Monday in January marks Blue Monday, the most depressing day on the calendar, and in pandemic times, the winter can feel even more difficult to weather. In fact, the number of adults experiencing depression has nearly doubled since 2020.
If you’re finding it hard to wait out the winter — with the omicron variant outbreak to boot — you’re certainly not alone. There are brighter days ahead, but you’ll have to make it through Blue Monday and the rest of the winter first. Here are some mental health tips for students who want to boost their mood and feel better this season.
1. Soak up the Sunshine
Do you want to boost your mood, improve sleep quality and increase energy levels? Get outside and soak up some sunshine. It doesn’t matter if it’s 0°C and there’s snow on the ground. As long as the sun’s above the horizon, spending a few minutes under its rays is sure to do you some good.
The next time the sun makes a rare appearance, bundle up and hit the trails. Try your shoes at some winter sports, winterize your garden or have a snowball fight with friends. Remember to apply sunblock before going out and dress for the weather. A little sunshine can go a long way.
2. Balance Blood Sugar Levels
If you want to boost your mood and banish the winter blues, you might want to ditch the microwavable mac ‘n cheese. Starchy foods like pasta, white rice and bread can cause a spike and then drop in blood sugar levels. You can experience negative moods and irritation when your glucose is unstable, which can exacerbate seasonal affective disorder.
Balance your levels with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other nutritious produce. Low-carb options like tomatoes, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts make good snacks. Try dipping them in hummus, salsa or peanut butter to up your protein intake and create a more satisfying spread. Add more colour, flavour and texture to your plate and enjoy a more positive mood all season long.
3. Take a Social Media Fast
Connecting with loved ones is one of the most effective mental health management strategies you can implement. However, it might be best to communicate in person instead of online. That’s because spending time on social media can increase stress levels, boost your anxiety and even lead to FOMO.
Take a social media fast and swear off Instagram, Facebook and all other online communication for a day — or maybe even a week. It might be difficult at first, but giving up your socials could make a huge difference in helping you through the winter blues.
4. Make Movement a Priority
Upping your exercise is one of the most common mental health tips for winter blues. Luckily, you don’t have to hit the weight rack or even go to the gym to increase your physical activity level and boost endorphins. Fall in love with movement by learning a few Tik Tok dances, joining a yoga class like Adriene Mishler’s 30-day January challenges — this year’s theme is “Move” — or going for a jog. Even a 15-minute walk can reduce your risk of major depression and boost your mood.
When to Seek Help
You can always lean on friends and family for support as you implement these mental health strategies. However, if you catch yourself slipping into isolation or depression, getting help is essential.
Talk to your doctor or therapist. They’ll help you learn how to manage mental health over the winter and discover strategies that might be more suited for you and your symptoms.
Ginger Abbot is an education and learning writer, as well as the managing editor of Classrooms, a college and university site for students. Read more of her work on her author page.
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