It’s been a long year for everyone. Full of unimaginable challenges. Added to the usual ebbs and flows of the seasons and we’re ripe for some chaos. 

As we continue to trudge through the long winter, we need to have a grasp on why we’re losing it, when it’ll end, and how to get through. Sure you may be sitting outside right, in a t-shirt, looking at some palm trees in a warm climate while I sit here in 3 layers and under a blanket looking out my window at single digit temperatures. But just because you can brag about the weather doesn’t mean that winter isn’t out to get you. 

As we move through the winter, we know our hours of sunlight shrink. When we get less sunlight to the brain, we produce less of some of our hormones that regulate our sleep-wake cycle. This can lead to feeling a little more tired and sluggish, less motivated, poor mood, and trouble concentrating. In reality, less sunlight causes us to be kind of like bears in hibernation! 

The first key is to understand that how we feel is never going to be consistent across the year. You shouldn’t feel great every day – unless you’re a robot. So let’s acknowledge that the rotation of the earth is really jamming everything up. The good news is that we’ve passed winter solstice and are slowly getting more hours of sunlight every day! 

Unfortunately, knowledge isn’t everything. You might think this makes sense but still be sitting there like a bump on a log wishing you were outside at 8pm wrapping up a round of golf. So here are a few things to do to help fight these winter feelings. 

  • Move your body. Whether it’s doing a workout via an app, chasing small humans around the house, or dry swinging your clubs in the garage for hours – the key is to get moving. Physical activity is one of the best activities to pull us out of a slump. 
  • Phone a friend. But treat it like that old show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire (don’t act like you’re not old enough to have been into that show!). Call the friend who is right for the job. If you’re stressed, call the friend who will tell inappropriate jokes and give you some good laughs. If you’re sad, call the friend who will tell you you’re a total rockstar and you can win that million bucks. 
  • Write something down. Anything really. If I can’t convert you to being a feelings person, write down all the details of the next golf trip you’ll take when COVID is ‘over’. And use a pen and paper. The tactile experience of old school writing does wonders for our thoughts. 
  • Be ridiculous. Do something out of your comfort zone. Try a Zumba class for the first time or beginners belly dancing on youtube. Draw your first self-portrait. Doing something out of the norm pulls our through patterns out of the rut and challenges us to make cognitive shifts. 

There is always an end to winter. Happens every year. Know that it’s normal to feel a little rougher in the winter but know that there are simple things you can do to alleviate it just a bit. 

And of course, if you’re experiencing major mood shifts related to winter or COVID or anything else, don’t be too proud to be open about it. Talk to your doctor, find a mental health professional, open up to someone you trust. Don’t fight battles alone. It can get better.