The winter can be tough if you live with mental health issues. Here are 5 things Sarah Bailey does to manage depression and anxiety in winter.
If you are anything like me, you will find that the hardest time of year is winter. The long dark days, the cold weather, and the feeling of being shut indoors, all compound with my other mental health issue to make things feel 100 times worse.
For as long as I can remember, it has always been this way. Things start to go downhill by late October and feel like they are at their worse by late January and early February.
The early part of the year is often filled with me having barely any energy, and sometimes it’s difficult to work out if that’s due to my physical disabilities or my mental health problems. As time goes on, my depression gets worse and I feel like I can’t see a way out of anything.
It feels like I’m stuck within a never-ending black hole that just wants to fill in around me.
Every year the feelings return like clockwork
Despair, depression, anxiety, lack of energy, and the incredible ability to stare at the same spot in the ceiling for hours on end, all come as part and parcel of how I feel in winter.
Things that I typically enjoy during the rest of the year - like writing - don’t interest me in the slightest. I’m sure for those around me it’s concerning to see, as well as being confusing for myself to endure.
I’m not going to pretend that I have a way to stop these feelings. Because I don’t. They come every year like clockwork and I always struggle when they hit. However, there are a few things I have taught myself over the years to try and make this time of year feel that little bit easier.
My top tips for overcoming winter depression
1. I tell myself it’s OK
This might sound strange, but for me, accepting the fact that winter is bad and that I will experience this dip every year is a BIG thing.
It helps me to stop fighting all the “why am I like this?” thoughts, as well as the disappointment that comes when this year doesn’t turn out any better than last year. These thoughts always make things worse.
These days I know that the winter dip will happen and that’s OK and I accept it. While it’s a scary time, I now know that it will end and things will get better to some degree, like they do every year.
2. I use simple things take my mind off things
It can be hard to get anything done when the motivation is lacking. Even if you do manage to get going, the concentration required to continue once you’ve started can be hard to muster up. So instead, I like to have a store of simple and easy things to do.
For instance, silly movies, colouring books, baking, listening to music, or simply playing a board game are all easy ways to help take your mind off things.
For those things that require a little more concentration, why not try asking those around you if they can help?
3. I spend time with friends and family
If you’re like me, winter is probably a time when you would rather be alone as you may be feeling really anti-social. However, I find that spending some time with those who understand can be a great thing.
If you have someone who can come over to to just lounge around or chat could make a huge difference to your day. After all, just having someone there can make you feel like you are no longer alone.
4. I get outside for a walk
Sometimes I find just getting outside, even when it’s cold, can do me a world of good. Making it out in the daylight hours is always recommended as it will help you to feel less like the whole world around you is dark.
It’s always nice to have someone (or a dog) to walk with, but if you need to walk alone, then putting some music on and pounding the pavements can be just as a good.
5. I spend time with my pets
Over the years, my pets have played a big part in improving my overall mental health. They have brought me back from the brink and have also helped me feel that I am not alone.
If you have a pet in your home, just being with them, stroking them, and playing with them can really help uplift your mood.
Always remember that it is OK to find winter hard – particularly if you live with depression or anxiety.
This isn’t something you should feel ashamed of. I know that it might be hard to come round to this way of thinking, but if you do, it can be a step forward in making the colder months feel a little bit easier.
These are just a few things to do over winter to help take care of yourself, so don’t be afraid to try out different options until you find the things that work for you.
NPS-IE-NP-00520 November 2022