As the days draw shorter and temperatures drop, many of us may experience the winter blues.
This affects many people and can involve:
• Feeling lethargic
• Down or low
• Difficulties with your sleep (whether that be sleeping too much or not enough)
• Losing interest in things you usually enjoy
• Isolating yourself from those around you
• Changes in your appetite
Here we explore some ideas and tips to support your mood during the winter months.
- Natural daylight – try and enjoy the natural daylight as much as you can, especially on brighter days and during the middle of the day. You could go for a walk or sit by the window, for example. You could also consider light therapy by investing in a light box. These provide a stronger light than ordinary lighting. Dawn simulators can also help by mimicking a natural sunrise, waking you up gradually.
- Keeping warm can reduce the winter blues. Do this by eating hot foods, drinking hot drinks, wearing warm shoes and clothes, and try and keep your home between 18 to 21 degrees.
- Try something new – taking up a new hobby can keep your mind active and gives you something to look forward to and concentrate on.
- Your support network – socialising with friends and family can boost your mood. Start by planning in small things that will feel manageable for you at the moment.
- Get active – physical activity causes chemical changes in your brain, improving your mood as well as boosting your self-esteem. Going for a 1-hour walk during the midday can be as helpful as light therapy.
- Healthy eating – improving your diet can improve your mood and energy levels. Make sure you’re eating regularly to keep your blood sugar levels stable, stay hydrated, eat 5 fruit and vegetables a day, ensure you’re consuming enough protein, and monitor your caffeine intake and the impact this has on your mood.
- Get help – there are a number of different types of support available to help you manage these symptoms. At Wellspring Counselling, we have counselling available for both adults and young people, and Low-Intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for young people. You can also speak to your GP for other treatment and support options.
When we’re feeling stressed, worried, angry or scared, our body might feel uncomfortable. We might start shaking, sweating, and our muscles might tighten. Our breathing might become more rapid and shallow and we may experience an increased heart rate. To combat this, we can use relaxation techniques.
There are lots of different relaxation techniques and these are often more effective when practised on a regular basis. Here are just a few relaxation techniques for you to try out:
5-4-3-2-1: this is known as a grounding technique as it grounds you back into the present moment and helps you focus on what’s going on right now.
It involves identifying:
5 things you can see around you
4 things you can feel (e.g. the feeling of your feet on the hard floor)
3 things you can hear (e.g. cars in the distance or birds chirping outside)
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Square breathing: this is an example of a breathing technique. In almost every room you will be able to find a square that you can use to help you practise this technique.
All you need to do is breathe in for a count of 3 along one side of the square, hold for 3 along the next side, exhale for a count of 3 on the next, and hold for a count of 3 on the final side.
Continue doing this for a few minutes until you feel your body easing and relaxing.
Tense and release: when we’re stressed, we may not recognise that our body is holding tension. Using this technique, you can learn to differentiate between tension and relaxation.
This involves going through each area of our body and tensing that area while breathing deeply before totally relaxing that area again. You could start from the bottom up: your feet, calves, thighs, and so on.
Click here for a link to an audio clip to guide you through this technique.
There are lots of other relaxation techniques out there too! You can find more by google searching or getting in touch with us!Learn More
We’ve learned throughout our lives how to look after our physical health: what to eat to have a balanced diet, how much you should exercise, and what to do if you’re physically unwell. However, when it comes to looking after our own wellbeing, it is a lot harder to know how we can improve it. We all have different commitments that we try to juggle such as work, friendships, family, school, finances. Trying to maintain or balance our commitments can often make us feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Here are 5 ways you can look after your wellbeing.
Feeling close to and being valued by other people can help to improve our mental and emotional health. Good relationships can help you build a sense of belonging and self-worth and provide you with emotional support.
Spend time with family, friends or colleagues without other distractions (no screens!). Invite them over for a coffee, lunch or go out for the day together.
Do not rely on technology or social media alone to build relationships. It’s easy to get into the habit of only ever texting or messaging people.
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Physical activity causes chemical changes in your brain that improves your mood as well as boosting your self-esteem.
Being active doesn’t mean you need to do high-intensity workouts to feel good, slower-paced activities such as walking can be beneficial too.
Try increasing your weekly physical activity by going for a walk, have a kick-about in a local park, walk to school or work, take the stairs instead of lifts.
Being aware of what is happening in the present moment can directly improve your wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body, and the world around you.
Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations.
Take some time to notice what is happening around you.
Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem, encourages social interaction and gives you a purpose. The practice of setting goals, which is related to adult learning in particular, has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing.
Even if you feel like you do not have enough time, or you may not need to learn new things, there are lots of different ways to bring learning into your life. Try cooking something new, take on an extra responsibility at work or school or try new hobbies that challenge you.
Being kind, giving and helping out others has shown to increase a person’s happiness. Giving to others helps connect with others, create positive feelings and rewards and gives you a feeling of purpose and self-worth.
It could be small acts of kindness towards other people, or larger ones like volunteering in your local community.Learn More
Feeling anxious is common. Understanding anxiety can help us cope with it. Anxiety is a physiological response to a real or perceived threat. You can find out more about this at:
In some situations, being anxious is useful. Some degree of anxiety can help us stay alert, which is helpful when crossing a busy road or performing in an exam and in an emergency, it could save our lives. However, symptoms may be mild or severe and incapacitating.
Anxiety is experienced mentally, physically and in our behaviour.
– Mentally you may be unable to stop worrying, feel irritable, have uncontrollable thoughts and fears.
– Physically anxiety may be experienced as a racing heart, feeling breathless, a churning stomach, muscle tension, headache, shaking, sweating, sleep disturbance.
– In our behaviour, we might want to escape our situation or avoid the source of our anxiety. You may experience any combination of these symptoms.
Research suggests some people experience more anxiety due to reasons including a diet with too much sugar, alcohol or caffeine, smoking, compromised physical health, adverse childhood experiences, even a genetic tendency may increase the risk.
Stress can also increase someone’s anxiety. Life is often stressful with issues such as health concerns, work overload, studying, financial worries, relationship difficulties, unemployment or living with pain. We all have a limit to the amount of stress we can cope with.
While feeling anxious at times can be perfectly normal, some people experience prolonged and generalised anxieties about many aspects of their lives. When anxiety is constant, it is hard to cope. This is referred to as generalised anxiety disorder. Anxiety may also take other forms such as panic attacks, obsessive compulsions, social anxiety, phobias and post-traumatic stress.
What to do if anxiety is affecting your day to day life.
These are commonly suggested ways to help yourself:
– Eat healthily. In particular cut down on caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
– Avoid smoking
– Distract yourself from anxious thoughts through reading, listening to music, watching a film, gardening, puzzles, creativity.
– Take regular exercise, try to find something you enjoy.
– Engage with other people, talk to people you trust about you worries
– Practice breathing slowly. When we are anxious our breathing is often rapid and shallow. We can reduce the feelings of anxiety by slowing down our breathing. For example, breathe slowly in for the count of five and out for the count of seven, repeat these breaths for a few minutes.
– Practise relaxation and mindfulness. Join a yoga, pilates or tai chi class or find an app that offers a free mindfulness exercise e.g. Headspace.
– Keep an anxiety diary. Write down your thoughts, notice what triggers feelings of anxiety. Try not to avoid the things that are making you anxious.
– Anxiety is often associated with negative self-talk, ‘I can’t manage, I’m hopeless’, etc. Try not to listen to your inner critic. Be compassionate towards yourself.
– If your mind is full of catastrophic thoughts about what might happen, examine those thoughts, check the reality, try to break the cycle of rumination.
There is self-help advice in books and the internet. Check information is from a reliable source. Your local library should have a list of prescription books.
Similarly, with internet sources. Seek information from trusted organisations; the NHS, MIND and linked organisations;
Some organisations have help-lines which offer advice and or a confidential listening service.
When to seek professional help
It may be difficult to know when to seek professional help. As a guide, if your anxiety is more severe or frequent than you are used to or it has become hard to tolerate and is affecting everyday life, don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you are in doubt seek professional help. Make an appointment with your GP or get in touch with Wellspring to find out about counselling.Learn More