HER HEALTH: Winter blues

Chrystala Smith, M.Ed., LPC, Therapist with SSM Health Outpatient Behavioral Health.
Chrystala Smith, M.Ed., LPC, Therapist with SSM Health Outpatient Behavioral Health.

When we visit family and friends during the year, we often think about the loved ones we have lost. We feel hopeless about family dynamics and helpless about past disappointments. The winter weather can also cause a significant decrease in our mood from shorter days, less sunlight, and cold weather. 

Here are some healthy tips for managing the winter blues.

Follow this Acronym – D.E.E.R. 

  • Drink for hydration
  • Eat
  • Exercise
  • Rest/Relax

If you lost someone you love, follow grief and loss strategies

Take time to grieve while being intentional about positive memories that put a smile on your face. Identify things you can do to honor your loved ones by participating in a balloon release or a family gathering to celebrate their life with food, music, and games. Journal your thoughts and feelings to avoid ruminating about the past. And nurture yourself a bit with a nap, a hug, or a thought of what you are grateful for today.

What about those uncomfortable family dynamics?

During this time of year, families struggle with increasing conflicts—too many people in too small a room with too much food and drink. Plan ahead for how family members usually behave so you are prepared to respond in helpful ways ahead of time. It is always good to avoid political topics or those topics that you know will set off arguments. Be aware of your limits on how much interaction you can take and still remain kind and friendly. Doing games together can also engage the family while avoiding conflicts. Be mindful of managing your emotions if you notice you are getting upset or frustrated. Practice deep breathing strategies, step outside for a few moments of peace, share upsetting and uncomfortable feelings with someone who can understand your view. Maybe start a new tradition of food or games this year.  

Nurture yourself 

Be kind and forgive yourself for past mistakes, regrets, and resentments, especially with family. Be present in the here-and-now. Enjoy the day for itself – as a one-time gathering of family and friends. Remember the Serenity Prayer – and focus on things in your immediate control while letting the rest slide by. Remember, like yourself, everyone is carrying some negative stuff, so talk about positive successes and offer your hand in kindness.   

Low moods due to weather changes

With the shorter winter days, a decrease in mood is often normal. You may experience fatigue, weight gain (craving more carbs), withdraw from people and social activities, not be able to concentrate on your tasks, possibly feel increased anxiety and work concerns, and generally feel blue. To combat this seasonal depression, consider the following.

  • Use a SAD light – an LED light that is a minimum of 10,000 lux for 20-45 minutes each morning
  • Take a vitamin D supplement
  • Exercise
  • Be intentional with healthy eating
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of good sleep
  • Set realistic goals to accomplish each day
  • Cut back on social media and hearing upsetting news events 

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety or experience suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help or contact the National Crisis line number 988.

Chrystala Smith, M.Ed., LPC is an experienced licensed professional counselor specializing in clinical practice to assist with diagnoses, behavioral modification, substance abuse, treatment planning and suicide prevention. She offers stabilization for mental and physical health in a culturally diverse setting. Chrystala assists clients in building autonomy, self-confidence and life skills to promote long-term wellness. Chrystala Smith, M.Ed., LPC is a therapist with SSM Health Outpatient Behavioral Health. To make an appointment, please call 573-681-3249.

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