It usually hits me at about 4 o’clock.
It doesn’t matter if it’s been a good day or a bad day. In the late afternoon my anxiety begins to rise. I start feeling overwhelmed, jittery, and scared for no reason. And knowing that in one hour the world will be plunged in darkness doesn’t help at all.
My struggles with anxiety and depression aren’t exclusive to the winter months. When our corner of the world turns dark and cold, however, it becomes very difficult to stabilize my mood.
I’m not the only person in our family who experiences mood shifts during winter. I’ve observed emotional and behavioral changes in my kids as well. My oldest has described feelings of sadness and lethargy as the temperatures drop and my other kids alternate between bouts of hyperactivity and aggression.
We follow the usual recommendations for beating the winter blahs (soaking in light, plenty of rest, water, good food, etc.). In addition, I’ve discovered a few other techniques that help my family and I manage our seasonal mood issues.
1. Keep busy in the late afternoon/early evening
Switching up my schedule has helped decrease my seasonal depression and anxiety. Two of my favorite schedule changes include:
- Saving my workouts for the evening. This is by far the most effective strategy I use. My workouts are crucial part of maintaining my mental health no matter what time of year it is. During fall and winter, hitting the gym at night provides the mood-lifting benefits of exercise when I need them the most.
- Running errands or other changes of scenery in the evening. Even if it’s just a quick run to Target, a change of scenery during the evening hours often does wonders for mood.
2. Stay Social
This one is especially tricky for me. Social anxiety and social withdrawal are the primary symptoms of my anxiety and depression. Social situations can be very scary for me, especially when my mood has bottomed out. The winter months often provide a convenient excuse for me to hibernate and shut out the rest of the world.
For some individuals, a period of downtime can be beneficial and a necessary act of self-care. In my case, however, social withdrawal quickly accelerates my downward spiral. Because of how my depression and anxiety symptoms manifest, interacting with others is a crucial and necessary part of maintaining my mental health during winter (and the other months of the year as well).
Socializing with friends and family is usually a given during November & December. Keeping your calendar full from January-March, however, can be a great way to combat the post-holiday winter blahs. If you’re exhausted from the weeks of holiday partying, keep the get-togethers casual and simple. Invite people over on a Friday night and order pizza, or meet a friend for lunch or a happy hour cocktail.
In addition to socializing with family and friends, getting out to concerts, movies and free community events is a great way to stay busy and connected with others during the winter months.
3. Reserve Special Rituals and Routines for Winter
Two of our favorite winter rituals include family game nights on Saturday and home movie theater nights (where we project movies on our dining room wall while we eat dinner.) Reserving these special routines for winter gives our family something to look forward to when it starts getting cold outside.
4. Get Outside
Even if it’s just a walk around the block, breathing in the crisp winter air can provide a refreshing boost to your mood. If it’s not too cold or windy, a family walk through the snow can be a beautiful way to spend the evening.
One final note: while some seasonal mood disorders can be helped by home remedies alone, others are more significant and require medical attention. If you think your symptoms are more serious, it’s important to contact your health care provider.
With the right strategies, techniques, and/or professional help, the winter months can be magical fun for the whole family.
How does your family beat the winter blahs?