Posted by: silverliningsblog | October 31, 2020

10 tips for thriving this fall & winter

Winter doesn’t have to be a season you dread, even during COVID. Plan ahead so you not only survive, but actually thrive this year!

The challenges of winter

As the last leaves fall from the trees and snow begins to fly, many people are particularly dreading winter this year.

With winter comes shorter, darker days, frigid weather (at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere), and hibernating indoors. Every year, I witness many people around me crash and burn emotionally somewhere between January and March (and sometimes as early as November). Often, they are being affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder and don’t even know it.

And this year due to the pandemic, we’re anticipating that our activities may be even further restricted, and social gatherings made difficult, if not impossible. So the typical challenges winter brings seem even more compounded this year.

The key to surviving this winter…and dare I say thriving…is to learn more about the effects of less sunlight (and social time) on us, and plan ahead so that instead of nosediving, we keep our bodies running at cruising altitude!

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects people typically during late fall and winter. It occurs most commonly in the northern hemisphere, due to our lack of proximity to the equator and resulting decrease in sunlight (which can cause a drop in melatonin and serotonin production in our bodies).

Symptoms of SAD are the same as general depression, and may include:

  • a sad, despairing mood that lasts most of the day for more than 2 weeks
  • impaired performance at work/school or in relationships
  • changes in appetite and weight
  • sleep problems and fatigue
  • irritability
  • trouble concentrating, remembering and making decisions
  • loss of interest in work, hobbies, people or sex
  • withdrawal from family and friends
  • feeling hopeless and pessimistic 
  • crying easily (or feeling like crying but not being able to)
  • suicidal thoughts (please call a Helpline if you’re feeling this way)

Between 2-3% of people experience full-on SAD, and close to 15% experience milder symptoms. 

Additional risk factors include:

  • Being a woman (women are four times more likely than men to have SAD)
  • Being young (rates of SAD decrease with age)
  • Family or personal history of depression

The most common treatment for SAD is light therapy (i.e. getting outside in the sun more and/or getting a sun lamp). Medication and psychotherapy are also sometimes prescribed.

Thriving instead of surviving

Whether or not you have SAD, this year in particular, we’re all going to need to be extra prepared to weather the proverbial storm.

Here’s the thing…we can head into winter dreading it and bracing ourselves.

Or we can find a way to embrace and enjoy it, COVID restrictions and all.

In 2015, a Stanford researcher studied why there were very low rates of SAD in Norway, despite the northern climate and cold winters. He discovered that the reason they weathered winter better was that they had a very different attitude towards winter than most North Americans…they saw it as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured.

Norwegians have a word for winter called “koselig,” which loosely translates into a “sense of coziness.” They enjoy the change of pace that winter brings, including the opportunity to snuggle up in front of a fireplace and marvel at the beauty of freshly fallen snow.

I’m the first to admit that winter is my least favourite season (I hate being cold, miss being outside every day, and struggle with SAD). But I also don’t want to wish 4 to 5 months of my life away, so I’ve learned how to make the best of this season and actually have fun.

So today, I’m going to share with you my best strategies for enjoying winter!

Top 10 tips for thriving this winter

  1. Sunshine – Since SAD is caused by a lack of sunshine, it makes sense that the first solution is to get outside more, even during the winter. It can also really help to get a sun lamp (you can find a good model on Amazon or through your pharmacy for around $200 or so).

  2. Supplements – While I can’t recommend specific supplements for you (I am not a health care practitioner), there’s lots of research out there to support taking a Vitamin D supplement (a third of Canadians have insufficient Vitamin D levels). It not only helps to replace what you’re not getting from the sun in winter, but it’s also a known immune booster. Other supplements like fish oil and a multivitamin may also help, and oil of oregano is a natural anti-viral. So don’t wait until you get sick…talk to your doctor or naturopath today about which supplements are right for you!

  3. Stillness – Instead of pushing against winter’s natural period of contraction, work with the energy by carving out time to simply BE. Meditate, sit quietly and check in with your body, listen to the silence, enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with less frenetic periods of life.

  4. Inspiration –Use your downtime to take in inspiring ideas through uplifting magazines, podcasts, music, movies, quotes, websites and apps.

  5. Perspiration – There’s tons of research to show that exercise helps to boost mood…it increases the levels of dopamine and endorphins in your body (happy chemicals). It also helps to release stress chemicals like cortisol. The very worst thing you can do if you feel depressed is sit still. The best thing you can do is move your body…ideally outside if possible. So create a plan NOW for how you’ll fit in exercise this winter…find a walking buddy, sign up for an online workout program or yoga program. Even 15 minutes a day can have a tremendous benefit.

  6. Projects –During winter, we’re indoors more, so it’s the perfect time to look around your home and start a project to beautify and improve your living environment. Some ideas include: decluttering, redecorating, putting pictures in frames, starting a DIY project, re-arranging furniture, repainting.

  7. Play – This will be a different kind of winter…but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Think about what you can do in winter that you can’t do in other seasons. Better yet, make a winter bucket list! Some ideas include: skiing (downhill or cross-country), snowshoeing, skating, making snowmen, making a snow or ice fort, going sledding or tubing, going for a walk to see Christmas lights. You can also look for ways to bring more of the things you enjoy and that make you laugh into your life (e.g. comedy shows, sitcoms, funny movies, board games, flowers, etc.).

  8. Creativity –Related to play, find ways to bring out your creative muse this winter. You
    don’t have to be an artist…everyone has a creative side. It gives us something positive to focus our mind on so we don’t drift to negative thoughts and allows us to express ourselves. This is also a great opportunity to take a class and learn something new (check out Yaymaker for lots of great classes). Some ideas include: doing a paint night, drawing, getting an adult colouring book, cooking/baking new recipes, painting rocks, doing origami, knitting, playing music on an instrument, singing, writing/journaling.

  9. Comfort – Borrowing from the Norwegians, find ways to make your home cozy and warm. We need more fire element in the winter! For example, use soft blankets, warm tea/hot chocolate, a fireplace (real or fake), candles, warm socks, warm and bright-coloured clothing, twinkling lights.

  10. Community – It is SO important to connect with others, especially in the winter months. We naturally tend to keep to ourselves more…but then we feel isolated! Make new friends through an online community or Meetup. Have at least a couple people you connect with regularly. Schedule your next call or video chat…don’t wait for something to happen. Volunteer to help others (e.g. writing letters to seniors in nursing homes, filling purses for homeless women, participating in food drives, helping out in a soup kitchen). When we help others, it makes our problems seem smaller.

You may be thinking, “This all sounds great, but I don’t have time.” I’d suggest you don’t have time not to. As the saying goes, “If you don’t make time for wellness, you will be forced to make time for illness.” When we prioritize our physical and emotional wellbeing, we don’t lose so much time to being sick, having low energy or being depressed. We also have more energy for work and for our loved ones.

So use these ideas to create your own Winter Wellness Plan, and take charge of how you feel this winter!!

Resources

If you’d like to join a global community of single women who want to heal, feel empowered and support each other, I invite you to join my free Facebook group:

If you’re really struggling to cope this winter, reach out and call a Helpline:

And if you’re struggling with heartbreak and want to heal your pain faster, I invite you to attend my 1-day virtual workshop (the cost is very low, you can attend from anywhere, and all proceeds go to charity):

About the author

Karen Strang Allen is a love and empowerment coach for single women. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about who they are and create a life they love so they attract their dream partner. Check out Karen’s free inspirational resources and workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.


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