The Arctic wind slaps my face as I retrieve the delivery package. I leave the frosty door ajar, but the forceful gusts burst it open. I dream of some light on this dreary night.
It’s 5 PM, but the clouds have completely obscured the Sun and a part of me. When will it end?
Winter is supposed to be fun, with the arrival of a new year and the holiday season. Winter also brings a melancholic period known as seasonal depression for 10 million Americans. As the days get shorter, sunlight is cut off.
The reduction of sunlight decreases serotonin levels, a hormone associated with boosting mood. So, what can you do to alleviate the holiday blues?
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Exercise boosts energy levels and enhances your mood. It also takes many forms, such as running, walking, yoga, tennis, baseball, and other sports. One thing that you can try is a winter sport.
It’ll move your body, help with exercise, and it’ll add an element of fun. Accessible winter sports options include curling, ice skating, ice hockey, snow tubing, and speed skating.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to include fresh air in your routine. Inhaling fresh air releases serotonin, as this hormone is influenced by the oxygen levels you have in your bloodstream. Consider trying breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga in a serene space like a park or grassy knoll. It’s ideal to engage in these activities when the sun is out, so consider practicing in the afternoon or morning.
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These practices offer additional benefits. One advantage is the ability to connect with nature. This is an antidote to stress since green spaces relax our eyes.
This is because our eyes find it easy to detect wavelengths corresponding to green. Another advantage is sunlight due to its effect on the brain’s serotonin levels. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, it triggers the production of vitamin D which, in turn, stimulates serotonin production.
While it’s important to exercise, it’s also important to rest and practice self-love. Winter is intended to be a period of relaxation with the holidays and the advent of the new year. But what happens is we often get caught up in our New Year’s Resolutions and neglect our mental health. So, prioritize yourself through self-love, because nothing is worth your mental health.
Some things you can do to practice self-love are bubble baths, baking, drinking hot cocoa, burning candles, building gingerbread houses, reading a book, doing a movie marathon, etc. If possible, try organizing these activities with friends and family, while maintaining healthy limits and boundaries.
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This means saying no when you don’t want to do something. Everyone wants to plan something, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re feeling down, you shouldn’t force yourself to go out. It’s ok to do activities by yourself. Sometimes, we all need a moment to disconnect.
One thing that offers disconnection is a staycation, a low-cost vacation at your home. I know it may sound silly, but let’s think about the true purpose of a vacation. They’re supposed to relax us and help us disconnect from the hustle.
Therefore, when planning a staycation, keep it to yourself to ensure you have the space and time for personal relaxation. It’s ok to do some things alone. When we enjoy our own company, we learn who we truly are.
Winter can be a stressful time, especially with midterms, school, work, and plain old drama. Hence, it’s crucial to combat stress by adopting healthy habits such as getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night, consuming three nutritious meals, and incorporating self-love into your routine. I understand it’s challenging to maintain a sleep routine with school, but there are strategies to help.
Consider taking 30-minute naps after school and leaving an alarm on the opposite side of the room. This will force you to wake up, replenish your energy, and prevent grogginess. The longer you nap, the more likely you are to feel groggy, because your brain needs to go through all stages of sleep. Interrupting these stages can leave your brain in sleep mode.
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After your nap, you can focus on activities such as schoolwork, a job, hobbies, or indulging in self-love. While it’s important to stay on top of your responsibilities, try not to add extra pressure. This means setting healthy boundaries with your limits.
You don’t have to always be doing something. It’s the small victories, like going to school or meditating for five minutes, that count.
This also means establishing boundaries with drama. Recognize friends that are “energy vampires” through red flags, and limit contact with them, especially on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, which only create drama. While it may seem challenging to simply delete them, try having an accountability partner and setting a screen time limit on social media. Even though drama is sometimes inevitable, it’s important to avoid it when it isn’t, because drama will only make seasonal depression worse.
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We're teenagers, and life can get overwhelming with school, work, sports, clubs, parents, drama, friends, families, and social media. Carrying this stress is unhealthy, but organizing relieves the pressure. And no, organizing isn't limited to physical objects; it happens to our thoughts.
It's important to organize our thoughts, and there are many ways to do this. You can meditate, play music, create art, kickbox, journal, and tidy up your surroundings.
By organizing our surroundings, we gain a clear sense of mind and peace. A clean environment leads to a clean mind. So, take time out of your day to declutter your room, and yes, surprisingly, wash the dishes! No, I'm not paid by your mom to say this, but washing dishes is a great stress reliever. Research found that people “who wash dishes mindfully upped their feelings of inspiration by 25% and lowered their nervousness levels by 27%."
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Another way to declutter your thoughts is to cook or bake. Just imagine the oil sizzling, emanating a delicate fragrance. Then, throw in freshly cut tomatoes, potatoes, and rotisserie chicken. But the tomatoes aren't the only fresh thing; it's also you. Cutting vegetables brings meditative pleasure, due to the “soothing and sensory experience it provides.”
Winter, like any season, comes with ups and downs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t handle it. Through managing your stress well, exercising outside, maintaining healthy eating habits, and practicing self-love, winter will feel much better.
While we all have dreams and aspirations, prioritizing self-care during challenging times is crucial. You deserve to be loved because you are kind, smart, and beautiful. You deserve to love yourself.