Self Care in the Winter Months
Maintaining our well-being is a year-round task, and it’s only natural to experience some ups and downs. With that said, the winter months can pose a pronounced challenge for many - but that’s all the more reason to practice self-care!
In this post, we’ll be looking at how the winter months can affect our well-being, as well as some select self-care techniques to help maintain our well-being in the winter.
The colder weather may present fewer opportunities and less motivation to enjoy outdoor activities.
Temperature, driving conditions, and other factors can lead us to plan fewer social events and push us to stay home more often, leading us to spend more time alone.
Longer nights and shorter days can mean an increase in depressive symptoms - with little daylight, it can be a struggle to intake enough Vitamin D.
Many use more fuel to heat their homes, which can cause financial stress due to increased bills.
For those who observe them, various cultural holidays take place in winter. The holidays can be a replenishing time if we have happy, healthy connections with family and friends. They can be a time to embrace traditions and religious or spiritual beliefs within our communities and a time to be mindful and give thanks.
For others, the holidays can be difficult and exacerbate existing mental health struggles and feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation. If we lack connections with friends and family to rely on during the holidays or if we’re in the grieving process and mourning old traditions, the holidays can feel bleak and isolating.
The weight of our expectations can cause stress around the holidays as well - the expectation to indulge, socialize more, spend more, and be happy can be challenging to manage when our realities don’t live up to our perceived expectations.
Existing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions can serve to exacerbate the above issues. As we can see, the winter months can present compounding stressors that can make self-care fall down our list of priorities - but that’s all the more reason to make it a priority in our day-to-day life.
Effectively practicing self-care involves a holistic approach that accounts for physical health, mental and emotional health, social engagement, and spiritual well-being.
Fortunately, there are many quick, easy ways to practice self-care in the winter months.
Whether indoor or outdoor, physical activity benefits us all, and any exercise is good exercise. This can be a short walk outdoors on a ‘warmer’ day, weights and aerobics, or yoga - moving your body.
Attending to your mental and physical health is an excellent way to stay balanced. This is an important piece of self-care to attend to, especially when we feel our motivation begin to slip as the temperatures outside become prohibitive.
Establishing a work-life balance is a form of self-care. Take small breaks to move your body, stretch, and re-centre your mind. Challenge yourself to learn something new at work or help a colleague while being conscious and mindful of your time off for recreation, friends, and family.
Likewise, balance your responsibilities - try to find time for both what you have to do and want to do. Use your leisure time to participate in hobbies and interests that replenish you.
Sleep is another aspect of self-care that thrives when balanced. Aiming to sleep 7-8 hours at the same time each night allows for a manageable amount of rest.
Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention to the present moment - noticing when your mind slips to the past or future, then guiding yourself back to the present.
Focusing too much on the past, especially adverse events, can add to depression symptoms. Focusing too much on the future, especially worries, can increase anxiety.
Savouring positive moments, appreciating your friends and family, and finding beauty in your surroundings aid in the sense of presentness and mindfulness. Breathing and grounding exercises, meditation, and guided imagery are further examples of exercises that can assist when practicing mindfulness.
Connection and Support
Reaching out for support is one of the most significant acts of self-care. This could be informal, such as support from family and friends, or more formal, such as making an appointment with a therapist or mental health worker. Reaching out to your positive social support sooner rather than later can make it easier to avoid reaching capacity.
Sharing your goals and intentions with others can keep you accountable and engaged and increase your chance of achieving your objectives. A strong support network makes practicing self-care easier.
Lastly, checking out one of our Alberta Group Programs is a great way to make new interpersonal connections, learn new skills, and receive guided support. Primary Care Networks across Alberta offer programs designed to reduce anxiety, improve functioning, increase happiness, and more!
This website helps Albertans find a family doctor and lists many programs offered by most Alberta PCNs under the Workshops and Programs tab and information on registering. Each Primary Care Network has a website that will provide you with more detailed information on the service provided.
Access personal health records such as vaccination, medication, tests ordered, and results, and additional health information, tools, and patient care handouts.
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