Winter Depression: It’s OK to Feel Less Than OK
Think you’re feeling sad for no reason? Turns out the winter blues can be very typical this time of year, but there are different ways you can face it. While you can do something about it and take action, it's also perfectly fine to let your feelings sit and let them be felt. Let's look at some cute animal photos and discover ways to counter the SAD.
Owning sad feelings in the winterIt’s so cold outside, that you would rather just stay in bed. And as much as you’ve hygge’d your home, life just doesn’t seem cozy. Everything feels drab: The weather, work, your evening and weekend plans. Everything… But before you brush it off as “winter depression” or the “winter blues” that’s sure to pass once April hits, public speaker and trainer, Paul Krismer, Chief Happiness Officer and founder of the Happiness Experts Company, wants you to take note when you’re feeling sad for no apparent reason. “Sadness is real,” says Krismer, who coaches one-on-one and teaches at conferences and corporate events on how seeking happiness is a skillset. “Sadness is instructive. Sometimes we think we just have the blues.” But, you can do something about it. Looking at cute animal pics may or may not help, but it sure doesn’t hurt!
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Blame hibernationThis time of year, Krismer says, we tend to “shut in” and isolate ourselves. And that leads to a major cause of sadness in the winter: Loneliness.
What to do about the winter blues:Fill up your social calendar. Don’t let the winter halt your relationships with friends and family. Social connection is important all year round, especially in the winter.
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Mundane work routines are dragging you downAfter the winter holidays, work routines fall back into place. “For many of us, our work is stupid busy and there is very little relief from it in the winter months,” says Krismer. “We’re not likely going to be going on holidays any time soon, that tends leads to a bit of exhaustion. That low-energy, I’m-stretched-thin feeling.”
If you’re unhappy at work, Krismer says there is a cure for that. “You either change your job to something that is more in line with your values, or change it internally and change your outlook on your job. […] The idea of taking action can be a form of relief.”
What to do about the winter blues:But if it’s a getaway that will cure your sadness, start planning a vacation. Even if you don’t have room on your credit cards to book flights or a hotel. “We often get more enjoyment from planning the vacation than the actual vacation itself.”
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Reclaiming Valentine's DayValentine’s Day is traditionally thought to be a heteronormative day with chocolates, a card, flowers and maybe a dinner. But who’s to say we have to follow that thinking on February 14th.
What to do about the winter blues:Instead, make Valentine’s Day a more social day. Ignore what Facebook says of your relationship status. Single. Married. It’s complicated. Whatever. Don’t be alone on Valentine’s Day. “Make sure you have a great time,” says Krismer.
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Countering overwhelming lonelinessIt’s easy to get wrapped up in our own feelings sadness and our own lives, but if you even have an inkling that a friend is suffering from sadness, reach out.
What to do about the winter blues:“Invite them out, and do something active,” says Krismer. That would be the most beneficial thing for them. People just want to be loved. It’s simplistic but it’s what we all need.”
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Getting active (even when you really don't want to)Exercise isn’t just physically healthy for you. It’s emotionally and mentally healthy too. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins and enkephalins, which help life seem more manageable, reports Psychology Today.
What to do about the winter blues:Take a fitness class. Go for a walk. Better yet, meet a friend for a walk. Krismer says: “Move. Take action. That’s the real key.”
Your feelings are valid — and it's OK to feel sad“First, accept the negative emotions,” says Krismer. “I’m not saying encourage them or do nothing about it. […] We have emotions that are intended to guide us. If you’re feeling sad, it’s worth looking at the state of your circumstances at that moment.”
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Managing FOMOSocial media has been shown again and again to cause negative emotions. So stop Jonesing over someone’s winter vacation, indulgent brunch, day at the spa, and so on.
What to do about the winter blues:“Curtail the volume of time you spend on social media,” says Krismer. “Get real-life social connections instead. […] Instead of seeing other people’s ‘adventures’ go on your own adventure. Even if it’s just a walk around your local park.”
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Find the sun (get yourself that vitamin D)The lack of daylight is a huge factor in feeling sad in the winter months. As human beings, “we’re meant to be moving our bodies; we are meant to be out in the sunshine and in nature,” says Krismer.
What to do about the winter blues:“Combat those reactions of feeling sad to stay indoors and nest at home,” he says. “Get out of the office at lunch-time. If you don’t, not only do you miss out on relief from work, you miss the only opportunity to get the sun. And thirdly, it’s the best opportunity to move, since it will be likely the warmest part of the day in our climate.
Sad? Then don’t make this mistakeIt’s just the winter blues. It’ll pass. Right? Wrong.
First, and foremost, if you suspect your emotional health is more serious than seasonal sadness, such as clinical anxiety or depression (lack of motivation, crying for no reason, anger and low mood, etc.), you should seek a mental health professional, recommends Krismer.
But if you’re sure you are OK, still pay attention to your sad feelings. “Don’t ignore sad emotions – they will catch up,” warns Krismer. “It can get to a point where it becomes a clinical issue because we are not attending to the first warning signs that something is not right.” You can do something about it. Krismer recommends taking a happiness assessment at happinessexperts.ca.
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