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10 January, 2024.

The Family Counseling Center on Dealing with Winter Blues

Winter in upstate New York can be daunting. As the light dims and the weather gets colder, so too can our outlook and perspective of the world. The Family Counseling Center is here to support individuals as they navigate the challenges of the winter blues. Megan Sweeney, (L)MHC therapist at The Family Counseling Center offers some advice on how to deal with winter blues head-on.

“Winter can be a tough time,” said Sweeney. “I can find myself being a bit of a Debbie Downer during winter and I try to pivot my thoughts so that winter is about productivity, people, and purpose.” Sweeney offers five avenues to self-care.

1. Get as much natural light as possible.

Shorter daylight hours can contribute to feelings of lethargy and depression. Embrace the opportunity to get as much natural light as possible when the sun shines. This can include opening the blinds as wide as possible, sitting with your face toward the sun for even a few moments, and getting outside when weather permits. Decades of studies have shown that natural light can have a powerful and positive affect not only on mental health but on physical health and overall well-being.

2. Embrace your inner child.

“I believe in embracing your inner child whenever possible,” offers Sweeney. “Get outside and make a snowman, play boardgames with friends or your kids. Find coloring pages to sit down and do. Being inside doesn’t have to be about sitting around because there isn’t anything to do – there is so much fun you can have at home!”

3. Connect with friends and family.

Sweeney suggests two ways to connect with the people in your life:

  • Call the people you don’t usually get to see. “Reach out to cousins and aunts, friends who live far away or that you rarely see. This is a perfect thing to do on cold days – it cheers you up and them too!”, said Sweeney.
  • Create a Movie Club. Sweeney suggests creating a movie or tv club with friends. Pick out movies/tv shows you want to see. Everyone watches the same film and gets together afterward to discuss what they liked and didn’t like, similar to a book club format.

4. Make winter work for you.

Self-care is an important aspect to overall wellbeing, but it does not always mean taking a break and relaxing. “I try to make the indoors productive,” said Sweeney. “I’m my healthiest when I am busy so I focus on making my winter environment one of little wins.” Sweeney suggests a few avenues for creating a productive environment.

  • Tackle projects you put off such as cleaning out a closet, going through and organizing Tupperware, or planning house projects.
  • “I’m a big fan of what is called ‘contextual self-care’,” said Sweeney. “This means that you create an environment that is warm and comforting. Light some candles, find fluffy socks, fairy lights, and sit down with a good book.”

5. Create a countdown (or count-up).

Sweeney suggests that rather than focusing on the darkness of the winter, one should instead count-up the gains. “I have a count-up of how many more minutes of daylight we gain every day up until the summer solstice. This way, each day is literally a little brighter for a little longer. It takes my attention away from the darkness to the light and that has a positive impact.”