Winter blues. No, I am not talking about the genre made famous by artist like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, or Robert Johnson, whose music makes you want to get up and dance. When the clouds start to coat the skies, the sun decides to hide, and the temperature drops, your mood may destabilize. The temporary change in mood is called winter blues. Winter blues is a temporary feeling of sadness or loss of energy. It may be triggered by walking on slush ice, bundling up in layers of fabric, or waking up to a dark morning.
Winter blues is not a medical diagnosis, rather a common terminology used to describe a temporary feeling that clears up on its own. It is a very common feeling that is more mild than serious. Winter blues is often triggered by something specific like the loss of a pet, stressful holiday season, the day after it snows, etc. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), winter blues symptoms are that you feel more down than usual, sad, or less energized 1. Although winter blues are not as severe as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it does not mean what you are feeling is not important or real.
When we feel the winter blues, our mind is sending us signals that something or some part of our life requires attention.
Tips to cope with winter blues:
Stay away from that uncle who always eats the last cookie.
Sometimes loved ones can trigger the stress during and after the holiday season. Find out what triggers you during the winter months. If you have control over it, try to either stay away from it or work your way around decreasing the trigger.
Hit it up with some Lizzo.
Working out helps reduce depression and anxiety 2. Play some dance music, use your gym equipment, deep clean the house, shovel the snow—these are ways to work out without having to call it exercise. You can never go wrong with Lizzo’s dance hits. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week 3. It does not all have to happen at once, you can break it down to 30 minutes a day for 5 days.
Getting enough, regular, and routine sleep is essential in helping your mind and body to recuperate. It is very tempting to sleep when the mornings are dark but having a schedule and sticking to it is important. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time on weekdays and weekends. Your body might need a few weeks to get used to the sleep routine and schedule. Get a sunrise simulator alarm clock to assist in regulating your sleep cycle.
Driving me happy.
Driving at night to see the moon or Christmas lights in your neighborhood is a helpful way to beat the winter blue. Some people have the lights up until mid to end of January, take advantage of this to view the holiday lights.
Done and done.
Have a short to-do list that is simple, easy, and fun. Art therapy, mindful meditation, singing, etc. are fun activities to do that you would be able to check off on your list. Award yourself to something you love once you have accomplished your tasks.
Laugh out loud. Watch movies that make you laugh. My personal favorite is Charlie Chaplin’s movies. Humor can be used as a positive coping strategy to diffuse negative feelings 4.
Let there be light.
Consider light therapy. There are many benefits to light therapy 5. When your body does not get enough sunlight, it can lead to a drop in serotonin levels and Vitamin D levels, which can lead to depressive symptoms 6. Consider getting yourself a personal light that you can use at your work desk or home.
- Be patient as your mood had to take its time to improve gradually.
- Call your doctor if symptoms persist and you require medical attention.
- If you have suicidal thoughts or ideation, please get help right away. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
- Beat the Winter Blues. (2017, September 8). NIH News in Health.
- Guszkowska M. Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood [in Polish] Psychiatr Pol. 2004;38:611–620
- Move More; Sit Less. (2020, October 7). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Seaward BL. Comic relief: The healing power of humor. In: Essentials of Managing Stress. 4th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2017.
- Gupta, S. (2014, May 23). The Benefits of Light Therapy | Everyday Health. EverydayHealth.Com.
- Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., & Estwing Ferrans, C. (2010). Vitamin D and depression: Where is all the sunshine?. Issues in mental health nursing, 31(6), 385–393.
Aruna Manisekaran, MPH,CPH, is the Public Health Educator at the Fishers Health Department. Aruna has her Masters in Public Health and Certified Public Health. As a new Fishers resident, Aruna enjoys driving around to view the landscapes, the holiday lights, the parks, and the neighborhoods. In her spare time, she enjoys art therapy, making earrings, gardening, puzzles, cooking, baking, and binge-watching shows. She loves Fishers’ support for local businesses, the entrepreneurial culture, and the progressive thinking.