“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Wayne Dyer
It always seems like during this time of year I feel different. I never knew how to explain it, mainly because I used to keep busy with school and the endless amount of assignments pilling up at my desk just waiting to get done. I found it would distract me from how I was feeling. On the outside, I may have looked all put together, but on the inside, I was falling apart. It wasn’t until I had a change in my life, going from being in school to graduating and taking a year off to focus on my mental health and well-being, did I really see the difference in me. I never took the time to stop and see how much I repressed my thoughts and feelings when I should have taken the time to step back and take care of them one at a time.
They say the weather has a way of changing your mood, going so far as even causing you to be more anxious during this time. I can see that, because I find that winter is the worst for me when it comes to my anxiety. As much as I try to find that balance with maintaining a healthy relationship with my mental health, I still have some bad days too. It certainly doesn’t help when you’ve been cooped up in the house for months on end, waiting for that moment when there’s a string of days where it is over fifty degrees and the sun is shining so bright that you almost want to drive to the beach and dive right into the water.
Now, as I look outside my window and see yet another snowfall, I’m reminded of how much this weather puts me in a bad mood. I’m not the only one though, there are some people who feel the same way during this time and find that their anxiety gets easily triggered. Research has shown that some people are more sensitive to the change in weather. When you go from having warm and relaxing days, to the sun going down earlier and the temperature dropping, it can be hard to get your mind and body settled on the change, especially when it comes out of nowhere. If you’re from New England you can probably understand that struggle with our ever-unpredictable weather.
So, what are some ways that we can control our anxiety while trying to get through this endless winter?
Step out from the shadows and into the light again
Although the exact causes of anxiety in the winter have not been solidified, many researchers have believed it to be caused by a lack of light. During the colder months, not only is the sun out less, but people don’t spend as much time outside due to the colder temperatures. As a result, you have low Vitamin D and serotonin levels, which causes your anxiety to go out of whack. There are ways to help with this such as taking Vitamin D supplements or a light therapy lamp to keep you at ease and on the right track.
If you can’t beat the winter weather, join it instead
Many people, including myself, find that during the winter, being outside is the last place they want to be. I can already feel my hands and feet getting numb just thinking about it, and to have to put on all those layers and still be cold? No thanks. When we see the first snow fall our mind reverts straight to our cozy beds and comfy couches where we can live vicariously through the season by looking out the window. That may be nice for a little while but continuing to stay indoors can be a problem. It can actually cause your anxiety to worsen by not getting the fresh air you need. Going outside daily even if it’s for fifteen minutes is extremely beneficial and will help you in the long run. Find certain activities that can be fun and get other people to join in with you. And if you really don’t want to go outside, get a plant. Science shows that plants will clean the stale air of toxins and energy, which instantly enhances your mood and decreases anxiety in the winter.
Say goodbye to being lonely
The winter season is not enjoyable for everyone and people have valid reasons for not liking it. It can be a very lonely time and although nothing has changed except for the weather, you’re spending more time inside and more time alone, which ultimately makes you feel lonelier. As a result, anxiety in the winter increases. One way to change this, try getting a weighted blanket. Not only do they increase serotonin levels, but they are designed to weigh approximately ten percent of a person’s body weight. It literally feels like you’re getting a giant hug! They are designed to alleviate anxiety in the winter.
It’s a known fact that the more you choose to stay indoors and hibernate, the more you start to feel like a hermit. You’ll easily start to become unproductive because you feel no desire to do anything. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where all I want to do is lay in bed and binge watch Netflix. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only when you continue to do it at a constant rate that it becomes a problem. When we find that we are not doing anything all day or staying productive, our mind does not settle well. You start to feel more anxious because you find you’re giving your mind the chance to roam and feed the anxious thoughts you may already be having. So, instead of allowing yourself to let that happen it’s simple what you need to do: stay productive. Keep your mind busy by doing activities or adding an extra task to do out of your normal everyday routine. You’ll find that by staying active and busy will give you hardly anytime to worry about your anxiety or allow your mind to let you think about it.
I know the winter months can be hard for some of us who deal with anxiety. And sometimes we just want to escape the world for a bit and hide under a million cozy blankets and forget that there’s even a problem. Believe me, I know how you feel. Even when I find myself doing these things I don’t always see the results I’d like. But I never give up and neither should you. So, remember to take care of yourself with these few tips on controlling your anxiety during this time. Sooner or later we will see the grass and sun again, so keep on pushing forward.
Written by: Kirstie Devine