After weeks of endless family events, dinner parties and very few spare moments, the New Year lull is a welcome break. The thing is, it can also be a bit of a downer, too.
After all, while the holidays may be stressful, they at least pose a distraction to the dark, cold days of winter. After the New Year has been counted down and the decorations packed up, what is there to look forward to?
High credit card bills and very little sunshine can make for a depressing combination, says Kimberly Moffit, a Toronto-based psychotherapist. The key to getting over the winter blahs before they start is to change your mindset and find some inexpensive ways to get through the next four months (or more). Below are her suggestions:
- Don’t isolate yourself. “The worst thing you can do, if you’re prone to feeling down during the winter months, is cut yourself off from everyone,” Moffit says. She suggests surrounding yourself with family and friends and making time to socialize.
- Get exercise. Exercise creates endorphins – nature’s anti-depressants. These little critters not only make you feel happier, but they reduce stress as well. So, while it might be tempting to park yourself in front of the TV with a bottle of wine, force yourself to do something a little more active, such as head to the gym or join an exercise class. Discovering a new winter sport will also help you find more joy in the winter months.
- Find other extracurricular activities to love. Getting yourself out of the house for non-exercise purposes can also prevent you from falling into a winter rut. Joining a choir or a craft class will not only help you get through the winter but also introduce you to new friends.
- Pay off the small bills first. If you have leftover holiday debts, pay off the smallest balances first. This will allow you to feel a strong sense of accomplishment and reach your goals faster. It will also motivate you to continue plugging away, rather than add to the problem with a shopping spree.
- Get a head start on next season. It’s never too early to start saving for the holidays. Socking away as little as $20 per month now will not only better prepare you for next season, but it will minimize next year’s post-holiday hangover!
When to seek help
While it’s normal to feel a little “blah” during the winter months, certain feelings can indicate the presence of something more severe, such as depression. If you think you might have something more serious, take a look at your eating, sleeping and social interaction habits. If you’ve noticed a huge change in your weight, and if your appetite has grown or shrunk dramatically, that could be the sign that something is a little off. If you’re experiencing repeated nights of severe insomnia or if you’re constantly waking up tired, even after a full night’s sleep, it might be wise to see a doctor. A fear of leaving the house, or a tendency to avoid social situations, is also a telltale sign of depression.