Take charge of your health. Sign up for HealthyWomen newsletters:
Healthy Aging > self-care
Find out more about:
The Ultimate Guide to Surviving the Winter Blues

The Ultimate Guide to Surviving the Winter Blues

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 11/19/2019
Last Updated: 11/19/2019

Share on:

Feeling sad lately?

As the days get shorter and colder, you may feel tired and moody, depleted of energy or enthusiasm. That sad feeling is officially known as SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, and it's quite common, especially in wintertime.

Although experts aren't sure why it happens, one theory is that the seasonal changes disrupt your body's circadian rhythm, your body's 24-hour internal clock governing sleepiness and wakefulness. Another thought is that your serotonin and melatonin levels drop in response to reduced sunlight; these regulate your sleep and mood.

Women are most vulnerable, according to Norman E. Rosenthal, MD. In his book, Winter Blues, he writes: "We really don't know why women are more vulnerable to SAD than men, but we suspect that is related to the cyclical secretion of female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone." His book includes advice for family and friends, meditation for SAD and information about various treatments including light therapy, psychotherapy and more.

The drier and colder weather inevitably causes imbalances in our bodies, says Erin Casperson, who is the dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Those changes are evident in our appetites, our moods, our sleep pattern and our general well-being.

"Common imbalances include dry, cracking skin, dry hair and split ends, dry nasal passages, stiff/cracking joints and achy and stiff muscles," she says.

Although you may feel the myriad effects of SAD will never end, they will—I promise! I deal with it every year like clockwork. SAD does lift once the days get longer. Come spring, my whole outlook shifts. Depression gives way to optimism and fatigue turns to positive energy. The invisible veil finally departs, and the world is again bright.

But in the meantime, there are things I've found, through both personal experience and research, that you can do to combat SAD.

Try some self-care or self-preservation. Whatever you want to call it, pay attention to yourself to help fight the winter blues.

  1. Try light therapy to switch up your mood.

    —A light box gives off light that is brighter than a regular lightbulb and can mimic outdoor light (without the burn—most boxes filter out UV rays). The Mayo Clinic says that light therapy, used for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time, is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep and is most effective when started in the early fall and used through the spring. This one from Verilux is UV-free and offers four brightness levels and three levels of white. Read more about light therapy and other SAD treatment options.

  2. Try submerging your body.

    One thing that frustrates me about the winter is that my entire body constantly feels chilled to the bone. When that happens, the only thing that warms me is to take a long soak in a hot bathtub. Filling it with this Mineral Wellness Soak by Kerstin Florian is the icing on the cake. The minerals are derived from the Dead Sea and help your skin and body with calcium, sulfur, bromide, potassium and zinc.

  3. Try breathing some oil.

    Dry, irritated nasal passages come with winter. They not only hurt but, if left untreated, can cause scabbing, itching, burning, congestion and nosebleeds. This Nasya Oil by Banyan Botanicals can help moisten the delicate tissues of your nose and clear your breathing and sinus passages. According to Ayruveda, Nasya is considered one of the most important holistic self-care practices that encourages internal detoxification.

  4. Try this body mousse.

    Rich and hydrating, this feels outright decadent, as it should. FarmHouse Fresh whips up the potion with advanced peptides and retinol to hydrate and soothe dry winter skin. I love its subtle fragrance of wintermint, apple and amber, too.

  5. Try lighting a candle.

    British perfumer Jo Malone's candle fills the room with its fresh, delicate scent of nectarine blossom and honey that will instantly relax you and warm your living space. Aromatherapy is known to improve your mood, mental state and even your health and is a popular complementary and alternative medicine intervention for people with depression, according to studies.

  6. Try sipping some tea.

    I'm a die-hard coffee drinker. But, there's only so much coffee one can drink. And tea drinkers seem so … sophisticated? Zen? Healthy? That's why I'm trying to drink more of it. Plum Deluxe Teas are organic and hand-blended and appeal to the non-tea drinker in me. With flavors like white chocolate peppermint and caramel almond amaretti, maybe I'll drop the coffee altogether. One day. At least until then, I have options. Find out how to enjoy a mindful cup of tea.

  7. Try visiting a spa.

    If you're lucky enough to be able to spring for it, there are so many fabulous spas that can provide all the self-care you have time for. For example, the lovely Mirbeau Inn and Spa in Rhinebeck, New York, offers a "Winter Warmup" body treatment featuring a butter brulee whole milk soak linen wrap to warm and hydrate your parched skin, followed by a cinnamon massage with antioxidant-rich olive fruit and grapeseed oils, while Kohler Waters Spa (which just opened another branch in the Chicago area) uses citrus and cardamom to pamper your legs and feet with hydrating oils and rich butters.

  8. Try changing up your skincare routine.

    One easy way is by drinking more water, says Kimberly Kelder, the lead aesthetician and skin care specialist at Miraval Arizona. "It's like moisturizing your skin from the inside out." To enhance your skin's moisture, add a serum like hyaluronic acid or face oils to your skincare regime, which put a sealant on your skin by coating the top layer. Serums, she says, have a smaller molecule and penetrate deeper into the skin. Kelder also recommends gently exfoliating at least once a week to remove dead skin cells and allow products to penetrate better. Always follow exfoliation with a moisturizer, she advises.

  9. Try sleeping with socks.

    Cold feet are not just unpleasant, but they can keep you from falling asleep. Solve the problem by wearing socks to bed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, warming your feet causes your blood vessels to dilate, which may then send signals to your brain that it's time for sleep. Following the opening of blood vessels, the heat is redistributed throughout the body to prepare for sleep. If you'd rather not wear socks to sleep, you can always go with the old-fashioned version of warming your feet: a hot water bottle or heating pad.

  10. Try eating for the season.

    Certain foods are more fitting for winter consumption, and we naturally gravitate toward them. Now is a good time to reintroduce foods like soups, stews, oatmeal and seasonal foods that are at their peak, like root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, which are juicy and loaded with vitamin C. Try this recipe for roasted vegetables.

Here's hoping your winter is warm and cozy, and you're able to keep it that way with some good solid self-care!

This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net. Sheryl Kraft is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. She chooses only products that she has personally used or that have favorable reviews.

Will you help us by taking this short survey about heart health?