5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

December 17, 2014

The winter months can often be difficult for many people. With longer nights and colder weather, individuals may feel down more often. This can be an especially difficult challenge when you are also dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Here are some tips on how to beat the winter blues:

1. Eat a healthy diet. Often, people will turn to foods that are high in fat, carbohydrates, and sugar when they are feeling down. Although “comfort foods” that fit this category can be helpful at times, they can also make you feel lethargic if eaten regularly, possibly making the winter blues even worse. Eating healthy can also give you the chance to buy new foods, try new recipes, and spend time thoughtfully putting together a meal. This can be a good idea if the winter weather keeps you in the house but you are looking for a new activity.

2. Get regular exercise. During the winter months, exercise often seems like the last activity you want to do. Staying in bed or under warm blankets may seem more appealing, but exercise is a great way to stay active, release anxiety, and set and reach goals. Exercise can also help you get in a new, recreational routine to follow after all of your responsibilities are completed for the day.

3. Start a new routine. In addition to exercise, starting a new routine with a different activity or practice can also be helpful in dealing with the winter blues. You can sign up for a yoga or meditation class, pick up an activity such as painting or journaling, or even just set some time aside to read a portion of a good book every day. By setting a routine, you can create activities you look forward to doing every day after you are done with work, school, or other responsibilities.

4. Make plans to see friends or family regularly. The winter months also include many holidays. For some, these can be an energizing way to see family and friends. However, others may find holiday get-togethers stressful or tiring. If you don’t feel up to attending holiday get-togethers, it may be easier to make plans to spend time with one friend or family member at a time so you don’t feel lonely by yourself or overwhelmed with a large crowd.

5. Get plenty of sunlight. Though taking a moment to go outside can be more than a little unpleasant during the cold winter months, spending a few moments in the sunlight can improve both your mood and your health. Exposure to sunlight increases your body’s levels of vitamin D, which strengthens your bones, muscles and immune system. Light also helps your brain produce more serotonin, which in turn helps to boost your mood. If you are unable to go outside, consider adding more lights inside your home.

Although the winter months may be difficult for those facing cancer, it is important to remember steps to care for yourself. If you find yourself feeling especially sad or depressed, please contact your health care team. For additional support, you can call the Cancer Support Helpline at 1-888-793-9355 to speak with a licensed mental health professional who can arrange a brief online survey to help you identify areas of distress in your life, as well as offer you support and resources to help you cope with the winter blues.