Self-Care to Beat the Winter Blues

Self-Care to Beat the Winter Blues

By Kara Ferreira and Troy Marks II, MA

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and milder cases of the winter blues occur when the days become shorter and the weather becomes colder. Symptoms of SAD, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Having low energy
  • Sleeping too much
  • Carbohydrate cravings, overeating, weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Suicidal thoughts in extreme cases

(Please note if you are experiencing SAD and have any thoughts of self-harm, seek help immediately).

People without SAD may still experience a mild increase in similar symptoms during the winter months. While symptoms typically resolve during the spring or summer months, there are several things you can do to help with your mental health. 

Beating the winter blues can seem like an insurmountable task at times with less exposure to sunlight, freezing cold weather and increasing amount of time spent indoors all taking their toll on your emotional and physical well-being. 

Here are three brief, relatively simple ways to turn these stressors on themselves and make them work for you from G3 therapist Troy Marks II:

  • Lean into activities specifically oriented around the winter season: Go for a drive to look at holiday light displays and enjoy peoples’ decorated homes; go to Greenfield village, go ice skating, make a snow angel/sled with your kids, give back to those in need, etc. If you dread the winter season then it would do well to alter your perception of it and try to engage with the opportunities it DOES offer.
  • Purchase a sun lamp: this helps regulate your serotonin levels and is actually used as a form of treatment at times with those who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. An alternative to this if spending money isn’t an option: get as much sunlight when you wake in the morning that you possibly can. If it is overcast, spend 20 to 25 minutes viewing/sitting in sunlight rather than 10 minutes if it were sunny out. This light exposure sets bodily functions in motion and helps keep our circadian rhythm on track which improves energy throughout the day and sleep quality as well.
  • The simplest ways to stay warm in the winter can often be the most rewarding: sit around a fire, drink warm apple cider and watch a movie, play board games with friends/family etc. Purposefully enjoy a night in as opposed to letting days become routine and dreary. This purposeful use of your time in doors can make it seem less suffocating to be inside. Utilize this time to rest, read, and enjoy those close to you.

If you find or a loved one find that you need additional support, we’re here to help! If you’d like to explore working with a therapist, contact us at (734) 323-4897 or for more information. Our practice, based in Novi, Michigan, is home to a team of psychologists with a wide range of expertise. We also offer teletherapy and can see anyone in the state of Michigan.

Kara Ferreira is a G3 Contributing Writer. Troy Marks II is a practicing G3 therapist.