6 Tips to Beat the Winter Blues

It’s November at UVic, and it really feels like it. The oaks have shaken off their red leaves, the winter wind is picking up off the water, and the holidays still feel just a little too far away.

Although us Northern Hemisphere inhabitants should be used to it by now, the impacts of low light can take their toll on mental health this time of year. Amidst deadlines and grey skies, here are my best tips for staying positive and countering the winter blues.

Photo by Lisa Fotios (Pexels)

1. Journal Positively About Winter

If you call yourself a “summer person”, it’s easy to adopt a negative viewpoint towards winter. However, it isn’t helpful to think like that; you’ll spend half of your lifetime in winter unless you move to the Equator!

There are many people who love winter. If you’re feeling the winter blahs come on, write a list of things you can only do in winter, or things that are enhanced by the season. A few suggestions? Skiing, ice skating, hot chocolate, time to pursue your indoor hobbies, and of course, the holidays!

Take a look through “events near me” on Facebook, and find local holiday lights events or winter markets. Take a break from dwelling on the negative and think about the positive parts of the season. There are many people who love this time of year and no, they’re not crazy. They simply approach the season in a different way.

2. Take Your Vitamin D

Yes, your body can make Vitamin D. But if you’re stuck inside finishing your third paper of the week, it’s unlikely that you’re getting enough. Risk factors for not enough Vitamin D include living in a northern climate and having a darker skin tone.

While Vitamin D can be one of those vitamins that you forget about, it’s an important regulator of mood, and can help metabolize other vitamins like calcium. Take it as part of a multivitamin, or increase your intake of foods that naturally contain Vitamin D like salmon, eggs, or cheese.

3. Don’t Stay Up So Late

Easier said than done, I know. But regulating your circadian rhythms can help you adjust to the earlier twilight. Try to pick a night during the week to try and go to bed earlier than usual. For me, that’s Monday nights, because the transition from Sunday to Monday usually hits me hard.

Go to bed earlier and try to get up earlier to finish any work you needed to finish the night before. You’ll feel better working with the sun!

4. Get Outside Daily During Sunlight

Help stave off feelings of darkness by taking advantage of the sunshine that you have. Take your mittens outside during your lunch break. Take a quick turn around Finnerty Garden or cut across the quad to get to class.

If you’re usually a gym person, swap it a couple days a week for a bike ride or jog. Even if you can only carve out a couple minutes each day, you’ll feel better with some fresh air and exposure to natural light.

5. Get a Happy Light

Growing up in Alaska, my dad’s “happy light” was a staple in our household. The powerful lights, designed to imitate sunlight and provide a fuller spectrum of light than traditional indoor lighting, are popular in northern climes. Testimonials abound describing their power to chase off winter blues, help the adjustment to daylight savings time, and even help improve sleep.

If you’re struggling with sleep and the lack of light, try investing in some light therapy. (Compact “dorm” versions run about $40 online.) It could be the difference between a restless November and a productive semester!

6. Speak to a doctor

Those of us who have depression are more likely to be affected by low light in the winter. If you can’t shake feelings of depression during the darkest time of the year, it’s worth it to speak to a professional.

Doctors are available for walk-in appointments starting at 8:30am weekdays at the Peterson Health Center on campus (arrive at 8:30 for the best chance of getting in).

If you live off campus, the Gordon Head Walk-in Clinic accepts walk-ins on the weekends with a BC Care Card; or if you’re closer to downtown, the Quadra Village Medical Center offers care for walk-ins, scheduled in the morning for appointments 9am-3pm, four days a week. Seasonal affective disorder is incredibly common and speaking to a medical professional could provide the relief you need.

Living in Victoria, the overcast winter skies are a seasonal theme, but the best news is, it is temporary. Come December 21st, we will be gaining daylight once again. Every season has its challenges, but we all deserve to have an amazing winter (and a productive end of term!) regardless of when the sun sets.

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