By: Grace Gufler

For many of us, the winter months are a time that ranges from busy and exciting, to cold and sad. As December marches along, we get to look forward to the holidays whether it’s seeing family and friends or simply having time off of work; then the New Year is quickly around the corner. But after the excitement of the new year starts to wear off and we get back into our routines, the reversion to the norm, combined with some bitterly cold days and another month without much sun can start to take a toll on our mental health. In fact, this trend is so common for so many people, that more severe forms of this experience are considered a mood disorder, called seasonal affective disorder, with the apt acronym, SAD. 

February can be a brutal month, especially in the city of Chicago. The sky is constantly grey, the wind is chilling, and temperatures drop considerably. During this month, whether you are suffering from SAD or not, it can be fairly difficult to maintain a positive state of mental health. At Accepting Therapy in Chicago, we understand this trend, and we want to do anything we can to help. Check out this blog post, and view some coping skills we recommend combat this seasonal mental funk. 

  1. Gratitude: Expressing gratitude is an important skill to embody all year round, whether it’s Thanksgiving or the middle of February. However, you may find it more challenging during the winter months. Many people experience an increase in negative thought patterns during the winter months. Therefore, it is important to practice intentional thoughts and acts of gratitude during this winter season. Consider naming or making a list of 1-3 things every day that you are grateful for and try to make them specific to that day. This will provide some important introspection regarding the things in life that you cherish, as well as increasing positive self-talk and feelings of joy.
  2. Sun: Even if you don’t suffer from the seasonal affective disorder, the Vitamin D that sunlight gives to the human body is a critical component of maintaining positive mental health, as well as body health. The lack of sunlight that generally comes with the winter months can make getting your daily dose of Vitamin D much harder. Consider investing in a sun lamp to use during these less-than-sunny winter months. Access to sunlight can really improve a person’s mood, so if there is any natural sunlight during the week, try to sit in a sunlit window for a few minutes a day.
  3. Hobbies: The cold weather or snow/rain that comes during these months generally forces a lot of people indoors; while that cozy blanket on your couch can be a comforting space to stay warm, it can feel pretty unmotivating to consistently have to return to it to escape the cold weather. One of the most difficult aspects of winter is feeling stuck indoors or having a lack of stimulation. That’s why it’s important to have hobbies you can participate in during winter that are not reliant on outdoor weather. Some examples include: knitting, doing a puzzle, painting, writing, reading or playing board games.
  4. Indoor Exercise: In addition to feeling stuck inside, the cold weather can quickly zap your motivation for physical self-improvement as well. Going to the gym in freezing weather is not easy and, as a result, many people’s physical health declines during winter months. To combat this, look for some helpful online work out videos or buy some DVDs to help you continue to exercise in the winter. Exercise can help decrease stress, improve self-esteem, and increase energy and motivation during the colder months.
  5. Fresh Air: With the cutting cold temperatures that Chicago offers during the colder months, it may be hard to motivate yourself to spend time outdoors. However, it is still important to have access to fresh air daily. Encourage yourself to spend a few minutes outdoors every day. Whether it’s walking around the block, strolling to a coffee shop, or even opening a window if it is raining or snowing, fresh air can help both your mental and physical health.
  6. Bright Indoor Environment: Even if it’s not snowing or raining, Chicago winters are generally gray and somewhat bleak-looking. It is important to have an indoor environment that is warm and cheerful. Surround yourself with some bright interior colors, or turn on all the lights when it starts to get dark. This brighter indoor environment can help boost your mood during the winter, and mitigate the effects of a bleak exterior environment.

Counseling Services from Accepting Therapy

Whether you are suffering from a seasonal affective disorder, or are just sick of another cold day, the winter months are not always the most supportive of a good mood and strong mental fortitude. But there are steps you can take to support yourself and your own mental health. We hope this list of coping skills can get you through another bitter Chicago winter, but if you are still struggling, Accepting Therapy is here to help. Our team of dedicated and experienced clinicians can provide a variety of effective counseling services that can support you and your journey to finding a bit more fulfillment out of life. Give us a call today and see how Accepting Therapy can start helping you.