Many of us want to hang on to the last drops of summer. Just the hint of cooler mornings and back to school marketing makes us cringe. We might avoid planning for mood management during the darker, colder months in Minnesota. Technically speaking, by September, we are halfway through the decreasing light cycle, so now is the time to start making our gameplan.
Some things to consider to manage your mood
Take care of your body- As daylight fades, changes occur in our bodies. Cool weather and lack of fresh air even take a toll on our skin. Plan to stay hydrated, be mindful of your diet, take medications as prescribed, and see your doctor. Eat foods that make your body feel good overall, maintain a balanced diet. In the winter months we can crave carbs more, just don’t overdo it, keep items you tend to crave out of the house. Check with your doctor about Vitamin D levels and using a light box. If you have a light box, start using it in September!
Physical Activity- Cooler, darker weather can pose challenges for staying active. When the sun goes down at 4 or 5pm, we tend to hibernate. Be mindful of staying active by varying your workout time, stopping at the gym on the way home (because you know once you get to your warm cozy home, the chances of leaving again diminish), work out in the morning, walk on breaks from work, or start a new indoor fitness routine. Play darts, join a bowling league, watch fitness videos on youtube, go mall walking. Even better, ask a friend or family member to support you, increase your activity together. Get some warm clothing and good boots, start an outdoor activity - skiing, sledding, skating, hiking, ice fishing, or snowmobiling.
Avoid mood altering chemicals- If you already struggle with mood during the winter, it might be a good idea to abstain from or limit your use of alcohol. If your anxiety or insomnia increases in the winter, limit caffeine.
Socializing/connection- Make a plan to maintain social contacts. Since the pandemic, people have found some creative ways to stay in touch. Maybe it’s an online book club or class, an outdoor activity group, or bonfires. Mood issues in the winter can make us want to isolate, we need to take opposite action by socializing, even if we don’t feel like it. Consider getting a pet!
Plan a warm weather vacation- If it’s in your budget, get yourself to a warmer climate! Just seeing green plants or being able to sit outdoors in the winter can boost your mood and vacation can be a stress reliever.
Get a hobby or learning something new- You might actually look forward to winter if there’s a hobby you enjoy doing indoors to occupy your time. Learn to sew, woodworking, scrapbooking, knitting, car repair, home improvement, plan a garden, dog training, creative writing, calligraphy, plan and research travel. This might be an ideal time to take an online class.
Attitude/perception- In some cultures, winter is a cozy time of year that brings about thoughts of fires, reading, and snuggling. Part of the difficulty with winter months could be your attitude or perception of it, shifting this can help manage mood. If we dread winter every year, it may impair our ability to make the necessary steps to enjoy it. Remember, there are reasons you choose to live here.
Use the seasonal planner guide below to plan for managing your mood this winter!
Start light box in September if prescribed
Talk to your doctor, let them know your depression is worse in the winter, ask about Vitamin D supplements
Plan for managing:
Learn something new-
How will you know if your mood is starting to decrease?
If my mood starts to decrease, my plan is to….
I am going to share this plan with…
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Written by: Amy Quinn, MA, LPCC