The clocks going back always heralds a darker, gloomier time of year, and for me has a parallel effect on my mood. So many of the strategies I use to stay well are harder and colder in the winter: running, walking, swimming in lakes. Then the colds start and don't seem to stop till Spring. Then the festive season brings a lot of stress and strain on relationships. And all that is without the shadow of Covid looming like a spaceship on the horizon. So I have put together a few ideas for staying well this winter, as much for myself as anyone. Please share any of your ideas too - together we can keep a bit of sparkle in the dark and make it through to Spring....
Sunlight – there might not be much of it, in fact somedays it can feel it doesn’t get light at all, but try and be outside in daylight hours for half an hour every day. It can have a powerful effect on your physical and mental health and help you sleep better. Plus there’s the vitamin D. If you are particularly susceptible to the darkness you can try a SAD (Seasaonal Affective Disorder) lamp which recreates the effect of daylight.
Stock up the medicine cabinet – make sure you have Calpol and Ibuprofen for the little people, and the equivalent for yourself. I also like to have an array of baby snot relief options (saline drops/spray/snot suckers/vapour rug/vapour plug-in) but maybe that’s just me. One good thing about lockdown was the comparative absence of illness, but with schools and nurseries providing perfect breeding grounds for bugs, we are all bound to get something. If you are on prescription medication make sure you are well stocked before Christmas – it can be hard to get repeats over the festive spell.
Know where to get help – make a staying well plan and a crisis plan. Have phone numbers you can call in and out of office hours, people you can turn to in a crisis. Try and think what signs you can spot that you are struggling, and have a list of things that can help. Every Mind Matters has a really good one you can download https://www.every-life-matters.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Wellbeing-Plan.pdf
Be kind to yourself – Imagine you are your best friend or a loved one. If they ate a wheel of brie or a packet of chocolate Hobnobs, would you berate them and tell them to feel bad? If they spend a day in their pyjamas and didn’t have a shower would you love them less? Hopefully the answer is no. We can be so mean to ourselves and beat ourselves up about our perceived failings. Winter is dark and cold, and this one might be particularly challenging. So if you are struggling, it is totally understandable. If a massive mug of hot chocolate covered in cream and marshmallows helps you through don’t begrudge it. Be gentle with yourself and the darkness will pass, the Earth will swing back into the heat of the sun, things always change.
Maintaining connections – however you find easiest, try to keep some contact with people who care about you, especially those who really know and value you. Even if it’s just a quick message to say hello, it can be enough to make you feel less alone. If you don’t like video calls don’t pressure yourself. Any connection is good – especially at the moment when we are all retreating into smaller and smaller bubbles.
Find something that brings you joy – however tiny, however brief. For me it's Strictly. The theme music, Zoe Ball every week day, Claudia’s fringe, the sparkles and the dancing. This clip of Susan Calman dancing to Bring Me Sunshine always gives me little lift
Wellbeing plans – from Every Life Matters, a Cumbrian charity supporting people with suicidal thoughts and families who have been bereaved by suicide.
SAD info – from Mind – all about Seasonal Affective Disorder and how to live with it.
More in-depth SAD information – from the Royal College of Psychiatrists
Samaritans – 24/7 Phone line (116123), email support (firstname.lastname@example.org), and app.
Mindline Cumbria – Call 0300 561 0000 or Text ‘Mind’ to 81066 or use Webchat (12pm-11pm Mon-Fri; 5pm-11pm Sat-Sun)
Beat the Winter Blues – Website full of information, resources and tips for living with SAD
Strictly joy – Susan Calman dancing with Kevin from Grimbsy always has a powerful effect on my mood. Plus she’s written a lot about her own experiences with depression so is my all round hero…