This past weekend Daylight Saving Time ended, marking a decrease in our exposure to sunlight for the winter months. Setting our clocks back an hour so that the sun begins to set before 5pm can have a greater effect on us than we may be aware of. Natural light does a lot to help our moods. With daylight being replaced with an extra hour of darkness, it can take a toll on our mental health. Enduring the dark winter months while still in the midst of a pandemic may prove even more challenging because we’re more likely to be at home and isolated. We may need to find new ways to cope this winter during COVID.
As the days get shorter and shorter, many individuals may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Verywell Mind explains that less sunlight exposure disrupts our circadian rhythms and can cause a drop in serotonin. This drop can lead to feelings of depression. SAD is an interesting mood disorder because it is a direct result of the weather and where we live.
While our winter days in Oregon may be filled with less sunlight, there are still ways that we can take care of ourselves and cope this winter during COVID:
Make a Coping Plan Now
Begin thinking about how you plan to cope in the upcoming months. It may help to even write down some ideas of how you want to take care of yourself. Perhaps you want to buy more winter gear, so that you can be warm enough for walks outside. Or maybe you want to make a plan to Zoom with a group of friends one night each week. Take some time right now to consider how you can put extra effort into prioritizing your mental health during the upcoming winter.
Optimize Natural Light
When you do have daylight, expose yourself to it as much as you can. Open your blinds and let the natural light in, rather than turning on your overhead lights. If you still feel like you’re still not getting enough light, you could buy a light therapy lamp. Take time in the morning hours to get some natural light or turn on a light therapy lamp, so that you’re not starting your day in darkness.
Make Time For Activities You Enjoy
Give yourself some things to look forward to by physically marking down activities you enjoy into your calendar. Make time to cook your favorite meal or curl up with a book you’ve been wanting to read. We may have a feeling of dread for the upcoming months, but if we change our mindset to focus on the things we can look forward to, then we may feel more content during this winter season.
Listen To Your Body
Take care of your health by eating healthy, getting regular exercise and prioritizing sleep. In addition to our physical health, these basic things can make a huge impact on our mental health. By taking care of these needs, we will also be less likely to get sick during these months.
Bundle Up and Get Outside (Safely)
If you’re able to bundle up well and spend some time outside this winter, this can be a major mood booster. Psychology Today explains that getting regular exercise has a powerfully protective, boosting effect on our moods. You don’t even have to exercise too rigorously either. Even a 30-minute walk outside can be a great way to get more sunlight, move our bodies, breathe fresh air, and take a break from being huddled up indoors.
Focus on the Present
Living fully in the present allows us to be more attuned to our needs. Really examine your current thoughts and feelings. And ask yourself what you can do for yourself right now. It may help to talk about your concerns with loved ones or write in a journal to really process your feelings. Having this type of self-awareness for the present moment will allow us to better take care of ourselves.