Coping Strategies: Tips for Staying Mentally Healthy Through the Cold Months

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Coping Strategies: Tips for Staying Mentally Healthy Through the Cold Months

winter mental health

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, an estimated 15% of Canadians will experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—a form of depression that occurs during the winter months—at some point in their lives. Even without a diagnosis, many Albertans experience sadness or some form of winter mental health struggles, including holiday-related stress and anxiety, low energy, irritability, lack of confidence, and sadness. 

While reasons for the winter blues can vary, one thing remains the same: managing your mental health during the winter is important for everyone. 

What Causes the Winter Blues? 

While SAD doesn’t have a definite cause, many doctors and researchers think it could be linked to a lack of vitamin D, resulting from less direct sunlight in the winter months. Others suspect it could be the result of higher levels of melatonin—a sleep-related hormone that the body manufactures when exposed to dark. 

For some, winter mental health issues may stem from other factors, such as increased isolation due to weather conditions, the stress of working in retail or other busy industries during the holiday season, of financial and social concerns. 

Winter Mental Health Tips

Supporting mental health and thriving during winter go hand-in-hand. The colder months expose us to shorter days, fewer opportunities for socializing, and fewer chances to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, making it a great time to focus on your mental health. 

Here are several things to do to keep yourself in good spirits this winter. 

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness, or the art of focusing your attention on what you’re doing when you’re doing it, seems like a simple enough thing, but for many, it’s a daily struggle. Focusing on your actions, feelings, and thoughts in the present moment can bring down your stress level while also improving sleep and mood. 

While there are plenty of ways to practice mindfulness, some of the easiest include mindful breathing, observing nature, gratitude journaling, visualization exercises, and mandala colouring.

Schedule “Me Time”

Make a point of blocking time off in your daily or weekly schedule to participate in hobbies and activities you enjoy, such as sports, drinks with friends, reading, or crafting. “Me time” can also include getting your hair or nails done or going to the spa for a massage. 

Spend Time Outdoors

If your winter blues are the result of shorter days and less exposure to natural sunlight, spending time outside during daylight hours may improve your mood. Try to take part in winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or snowshoeing to get the endorphins flowing and help you feel happier and more lively. 

Stay in Touch With Loved Ones

 With winter and cold weather comes the risk of isolation—especially if you’re unable to drive to visit with friends or family. Even if you can’t visit in person, ensure you’re maintaining contact with those close to you through video calls, phone calls, and text messages. 

Discuss Winter and Mental Health With a Professional

If you’re facing winter mental health issues and you’re struggling to overcome them with self-care, speaking to a therapist or psychologist can help. At Alberta Forensic Psychology, we’re adept at helping patients manage common winter ailments, such as depression, stress, and anxiety. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Terry Singh

Content reviewed by Dr. Terry Singh - a Registered Psychologist