With the days steadily growing both shorter and colder, the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, and the holidays slowly approaching, it is safe to assume that we’re all in for a major case of the winter blues. The inevitable lack of sunlight, and the increased risk of being stuck under one roof with the naggiest of our relatives, is sure to get us down in the dumps, so how exactly should we brace ourselves for impact?

Why so blues?

As the remnants of past seasons start to slowly slip away, and the temperatures drop to the frigidity associated with the exceptionally chilly months of November and December, it’s not uncommon for our general mood to change; for feelings of melancholy to set in. Many begin to feel sad and resigned, which isn’t that strange. Not just because of the changes in light, or the more pandemic-related risk of increased isolation during what is, undoubtedly, the darkest time of any year. But also due to the often-financial stress of the holiday season.

The season of ultimate stress

Hallmark movies would have us believe that the winter months are solely a time of love and light. That we’ll have minor conflicts with friends and family over the holidays that can easily be solved with an honest chat and a couple of warm mugs of hot chocolate. But truth be told, real life is nothing like TV. The holidays are stressful. They take a toll on our wallets. They throw our otherwise very delicate work-life balance into chaos. And they force us to face the sometimes-unpleasant sides of our loved ones. All of this leaves us exposed to feelings of despondency and imposter syndrome. And so come the winter blues.

The SAD aftereffects of the winter months

The lethargy and so-called cabin fever that accompanies this seasonal change range from mild blues to more severe episodes of seasonal depression aptly called SAD (seasonal affective disorder). How it affects us varies. Some may be able to fight off these creeping seasonal mood swings by indulging in hobbies or spending quality time with friends, but many struggle to keep feelings of depression at bay. Looming COVID-19 restrictions and another possible round of lockdowns may make this year’s case of winter blues, particularly brutal. So here are a few tips and tricks to lift your spirits when the clock strikes blue.

#1 Increase your light exposure

The overall lack of direct sunlight is widely recognized as an important factor in why seasonal depression plagues us so. Some experts found a correlation between the geographical location of certain countries and the number of SAD cases amongst their populations—meaning, the further up north you live, the shorter your days are, and the shorter your days are, the bigger the risk of catching a case of the winter blues might be. Therefore, experts in the field of psychology highly recommend an increase in our exposure to direct sunlight throughout the day. A good way to do just that is to go out for walks while the sun is still up.

#2 Maintain a proper sleep schedule

The lethargy that persists following the rapid decrease of daylight is due to a disturbance in our circadian rhythm. This means that maintaining a proper sleep schedule is an absolute must. Make sure to have tools in place for those sleepless nights, whether it’s soothing sleep stories, a white noise machine, or some over-the-counter sleep aids (i.e., melatonin). Sleep is imperative when curbing your garden variety depression.

#3 Establish a solid routine

Maintaining a good daily routine is another great way to reset your circadian rhythm. So, invest in the time necessary to reestablish a sense of normalcy in your day-to-day life. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Set up a to-do list to help enact a schedule and hold yourself accountable when completing it. Carve out the much-needed time for hobbies and social life, especially if your busy work-life and duteous attempts at adulting complicate your quest for new experiences. Take up new exercises and activities that’ll bring you peace and joy. But most importantly, figure out a healthy way to cope with the previously mentioned feelings of dread and depression. Utilize friends and family as a sounding board for difficult emotions rather than internalizing them.

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An avid reader and freelance writer with a passion for intercultural communication and cultural analysis. A twenty-something social media newbie exploring the good, the bad and the ugly of the many platforms that make up our current worldview.