The days are getting shorter. There is a crisper feeling in the air. The sun from August has been replaced by low, heavy clouds. The feeling of freedom that comes with the summer season has given way to work and school and routine. And on top of all that, the holidays are on their way with their promise of family stress.
It is enough to make you want to run away.
What do you do if the fall makes you want to hibernate for the next few months?
First, remember that you are not alone. There are several factors that make the winter feel less exciting and more stressful than the summer. Before the winter doldrums hit, make a plan. Here are a few suggestions to keep the blahs at bay.
Go to the light. Shorter days of winter mean you get less sunlight. The sun can elevate your mood, while the darkness can make you feel sad. If you wake up in the morning and it is dark out and you leave work in the afternoon when the sun is already going down, then you aren’t getting enough light. Schedule a regular lunchtime walk. Even 15 minutes out in the sun will help. If you are stuck indoors all day, invest in a lamp that shines at least 10,000 lux of light (a seasonal affective disorder (SAD) light) to replace some of the suns rays in your day. There is a reason why we call it brightening your day.
Get moving. Don’t let your exercise schedule slide just because it is cold out. When you are buried under layers of clothes, you may not feel like exercising much. And when the weather turns brutal, going out for a run or a beautiful walk is just not an option. But exercise, like sunlight, lifts your mood, so if you get off your exercise routine, you will not be as happy. Make sure your gym membership is current. Reach out to an exercise buddy if you don’t have one already. Get exercise at least three times a week. It is amazing what that will do for your life. You’ll feel healthier, your mood will improve and you’ll sleep better.
Schedule Me Time and Us Time. When winter hits, you often stop giving yourself a little time to do things for yourself. Being in school or having kids in school adds to the feeling that you are running around from one thing to the next. The busier you get, the more that you find yourself cut off from your friends and loved ones. It is harder to feel happy when you are alone than when you are with other people. When you leave work and it is light out, you think about doing a little shopping or grabbing a drink with friends after work. But when it is dark, you often just want to get home and curl up on the couch.
Resist that urge. Pull out your calendar. Schedule at least one day a week where you will take an hour or two to do something for yourself. Go shopping or get a massage. Grab a cup of coffee and read a book. Take an art class or learn to play an instrument.
Then, schedule some time to be with other people. Create a date night with that special someone. Go out with the girls and see a show or just get together at someone’s house and talk. That social time will keep you looking up.
Find the holiday cheer. Although I highlighted the stresses of the holidays, remember that there are lots of wonderful things about being with family. Set your sights on talking with people you haven’t seen all year. Immerse yourself in family traditions. Give the people around you a pass when they start treating you like your teenage self again. If you smile and enjoy the family moments, your attitude will be infectious.
Winter is coming. Enjoy the ride.
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