The majority of people do not enjoy the winter months, and it can be extremely gloomy and dismal for a lot of anxiety and depression sufferers because the dark, short and cold days that can add to our mood and just make things a lot worse.
With the shorter, darker and colder days comes the need for more comfort food, warmth and sleep. However more than that though, there can also be a risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you would like to see a detailed outline of SAD, then please click here.
Call me strange but as long as I am dressed warmly, I actually enjoy winter which is even more strange because I am a born and bred South African - so you'd think that I'm very used to hot dry weather, I really don't tolerate the summer heat very well, so when the leaves start turning orange and brown in autumn - it's happy days for me.
However since living in the UK, I must admit that even for me - this getting dark at 3:30pm in the afternoon is a bit too much, and I find myself having to find ways to manage a little bit of doom and gloom in my mood.
So, if you are one of those people who doesn't necessarily suffer with SAD, but you do need some general help to make life a bit easier until the spring time starts to blossom again, then these 9 tips below are what I feel are the best to combat winter anxiety:
1. Warm Water
Something dawned on me the other day and I decided to do some research. I've always been the sort of person who likes to use the hot water tap to wash my hands. I've been doing this for ages, even in the summer time I will use the hot water tap instead of the cold. However if you are prone to using cold water to wash your hands, then this hack will work perfectly for winter! Through my research I discovered why I have been doing this for so long now. It's because warm water engages the calming effect of the parasympathetic nervous system which amongst others is responsible for slowing our heart rate - cool stuff hey?
2. Take Vitamin D
In the winter months, especially in countries like the UK where generally the sun is not at it's strongest it can really help to take some added vitamin D.
Vitamin D is vital as it aids in calcium and magnesium absorption - two very important anti stress minerals. The general guidelines state that the dosage for an adult should be between 400-800 UI however I take a supplement of 1000 UI in the winter months.
With regards to the diet, I love to eat portobello mushrooms which are a good source of vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 is found in animal products (which I don't eat) Yes, if you were not aware you get vitamin D2 and D3 and it is important to get both of these, which is why I recommend a vitamin D supplement in the colder less sunny months. Also when the sun is out, wrap up warm and just go get some sun rays onto your face. Even if the sun is not strong, you will still benefit from having exposure to natural light, as this aids in serotonin production.
The brand of Vitamin D that I use can be purchased here.
3. Don't hibernate
Serotonin is a hormone that is responsible for making us feel good. It is also stimulated by natural light, so even when it is cold outside, it is very important to get a dose of natural light regardless of whether it is sunny or cloudy outside. Bundle up and go for a short walk, open up all your curtains to let in as much light as possible and try to spend your time in the lightest room in your house.
4. Weighted Blankets
Just perfect for winter - what could be better than a cosy blanket... maybe a weighted blanket?
These are something that I've only recently heard about. A weighted blanket is a blanket that contains weights (normally about 10% of a persons body weight). These blankets are designed to 'mould' onto the body thus creating a cosy, snug and reassuring feeling. When a gentle pressure is applied to the body, serotonin production is increased, resulting in a feel good mood. Weighted blankets are on the expensive side, but you also can make your own if you feel like a bit of a DIY project.
Weighted blankets can be purchased on Amazon.
5. Hot water bottle
Even though I enjoy the winter, I don't like being cold, even if it's just slightly cold, I find that I get very distressed when I feel cold and I can't get warm (weird, I know) but if you are like me, your bed needs to be warm and comfortable. There is nothing worse than trying to sleep and you are shivering. For this, I love to make use of a hot water bottle. This is actually a 2 in 1 hack because not only are you creating a warm and cosy nook for yourself, but I like to also hug my hot water bottle when I get into bed at night and this can mimic nurturing the inner child, like a child hugging a teddy bear. Please make sure your water bottle has a protective cover on it else you might burn yourself - ouch!
You really can get some lovely water bottles with really cute coverings that are very cheap. Something like this will be absolutely fine.
6. Bring the outside to the inside
This is the easiest thing to do and it really does work! Put plants in your work space, add a small water fountain on your coffee table to remind you of nature and stick positive quotations and pretty summer time pictures on the walls in your work space/office. You could even add holiday brochures or pictures of holiday resorts for an extra summery feel! Not only does it enhance your mood, but it encourages you to keep busy by creating a more inviting place to work in. I keep lots of inspiring quotes and pictures around my office and I use loads of colour. Add a scented candle and some nature sounds and my mood is lifted so much!
7. Become more of a 'routine' person
If you are not the kind of person that likes structure or routine, this may be hard to do at first but I really encourage it because it can help a lot. Honestly - I swear by doing this! When we are feeling down in the dumps, we don't really feel much like doing anything, but sometimes sheer boredom and doing nothing can force us to dwell in self pity. By making a to do list / routine sheet and allocating time slots for each task, you can distract yourself from any dismal feelings that you may feel. I would also recommend especially paying attention to doing this late afternoon - when it starts getting dark at about 3 o'clock because that's when a lot of those gloomy feelings start kicking in! So by lining up things to do you won't be so focused on it getting darker outside. This helps you to feel more in control and you get a sense of self achievement when you can cross off something that you have done!
I always keep a diary, but I recommend buying a diary that dedicates one whole page to an entire day. I always buy something like this.
8. Light it up
I really love candles! I find them so calming and mesmerising!
Candles and diffusers not only create a warm and cosy feeling, but you can create another 2 in 1 hack by using specific scents to ward off anxiety. Do this by either lighting up some scented candles or using a diffuser with essential oils that relieve anxiety such as ylang ylang, lavender, rose or bergamot.
I use a VicSing Aroma Diffuser which can be bought here.
Can't have a hack list without a mention of good old tea.
Everyone knows that tea is a great stress reliever but it's such a great winter hack because it warms you up. I can really recommend the night time tea packs that are already mixed with various herbs. They calming and aid in a good nights sleep as well. Another great 2 in 1 hack!
I love chamomile or valerian tea for a great calming effect.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor! This article is to provide information only, and any advice followed is to be done at your own risk.
Any links provided here, I have either personally used myself, or else are just there to give you some ideas as to what is out there.
None of these suggestions are guaranteed.
I do earn a small commission on some of the products that are linked in this article.
If you anything like me, it doesn't take much to stress you out! Unfortunately, this does include even the happy things in life like going on holiday and Christmas festivities.
This is unfortunately how the mind of an anxiety sufferer works, and for me personally, I often joke with people and say that I wouldn't be functioning correctly if I wasn't worrying about something. Even when I'm happy, I'm worrying about something and even when there is nothing to worry about, my anxious mind conjures up all sorts of irrational scenario's.
If you suffer with an anxiety disorder, then I am sure you can relate. For me, I love Christmas, the atmosphere and colours, snow and all the pretty lights and decorations make it so happy and festive, but another part of me just wants it over and done with as well.
Well if it does, then read on because I have compiled a list of some very stressful 'Christmas' scenarios that I have seen or experienced myself, and have provided some handy tips to help other anxiety sufferers get through the holiday season with a smile and as little anxiety as possible:
- Plan ahead. Planning ahead is your best friend from purchasing the presents to organising the food. Firstly compile a list of everyone you want to buy a present for. Then what I do, is next to their name, I write down what I would like to get them. Then I go and research which stores I can find the presents at, and if I can just order it online. Ordering online (especially when delivery is free) is an absolute God-send for people who struggle with social anxiety. Also make sure you have enough gift wrap, sticky tape and cards or tags.
- Shop off peak. If I need to go out to go and buy some presents, I follow two simple rules. Firstly, I use one of my favourite social anxiety tricks, and that is to go early morning or in the evening when the shops are quieter. Secondly, because of the research I have done, I know exactly which stores I need to visit to purchase all the presents I want.
- Start early. Don't be one of those people who do their Christmas shopping on Christmas eve! That will most certainly trigger an anxiety attack. The shops are absolute mad houses, and it is not worth you having an attack the day before Christmas.
- Wrap your gifts as you buy them. I don't know about you, but I don't necessarily get all my gifts on the same day, so what I do is I space it out. I buy a few and then I wrap them and under the tree they go, that way you don't have hoards of presents laying about.
- Write Christmas cards ahead of time. I'm not really the sort of person who sends Christmas cards, but if you do it, then start writing them early December and send them out ASAP.
- Know what's going on. In our family, we always discussed what food we would like to have and who would cook what, and at whose house we would have the Christmas dinner. My granny always cooked the dinner when we were younger and it was the highlight of the day. However once my cousins and I were older, we decided it would be easier to have a lunch, and have everyone cook or make something and bring it to whosever house was hosting the lunch. So first things first, you need to establish what sort of food you would like, also taking note of special dietary requirements, who will be making which dish and whose house is hosting.
- Make a list. Make a list of food that you will need to make your dish or if you are cooking the whole dinner, then make a list of everything you will need. If you are hosting the dinner at your house, I suggest making a list for other things as well, such as: Plates, cutlery, napkins, decorations, chairs, drinks, glasses etc.
- Everyone should help. If you are hosting the dinner at your house, then take your list and allocate a chore for everyone to do. So one person can buy the napkins and crackers, one person can buy some drinks, another can help with food preparation etc. Remember, no matter whose house is hosting, the work should be spread out amongst all the family members.
- Dietary requirements. People with special dietary requirements usually see to themselves, and trust me, I would know because I have special diet requirements, and I always make my own food and take it with, but my family is always really good about making sure there are things I can eat. If you are cooking the whole dinner, simply ask the person if you can make them something or if they will bring their own food. Trust me again, they will appreciate you taking the time to ask.
- Plan ahead. Again planning ahead comes in handy. Cook or make what you need to do the day before. If you are hosting the dinner at your house, you need to clean up, put up the decorations and set the table. So space this out accordingly. Aim to do decorations first, and clean up two days before and set the table the night before.
- Speak up. Christmas dinners whether they are with friends, family or work collegues can sometimes involve toasting, prayer and speech making. Make sure that whoever you are spending the day with knows not to ask you to say anything in front of the other people, as it will really distress any person suffering with anxiety. You don't have to open up about your anxiety disorder but just make sure that you are not volunteered to do anything like this.
ON THE ACTUAL DAY
- Get up early. If you are hosting the party at your house, then get up early to get an extra start on things. Heat up food, make sure the table is set, the crockery and cutlery, napkins, crackers etc are all set out, and make sure your house is tidy and clean.
- Pack properly. If you're going to someone else's house, make sure you have your food ready to take with. Ensure it is covered and contained well for the journey. Make sure all your presents are packed as well.
- Pamper yourself. Get into a hot bath and just relax for a while. Add some calming essentials oils such as lavender and drink a soothing tea like camomile.
- Dress comfortably. Of course you want to look nice, but I also like to be comfortable in what I am wearing. If I'm not comfortable in my clothes, I get this irrational fear that everyone will look at me!
- Try to lay off the alcohol. I always recommend that anxiety sufferers stay away from the alcohol but if you want to have a small glass of champagne just to toast the new year, then go ahead, just keep it minimal and drink a glass of water afterwards.
- Refined sugar. This is the season of eating more, and that means lots of junk food like cookies and chocolate, so of course, go ahead and indulge in some of these, but also remember you are an anxiety sufferer and refined sugar must be kept to a minimum.
- Smile and laugh. When all else fails, smile and laugh - it's the best medicine!