Winter can be a difficult time of year for many people. Most of us are caught between joy and melancholy. We love the twinkly lights, the celebrations and family time but the dark days, long nights and cold damp weather can be challenging.

What can we do to help us through these dark months?

Stafford Well-being Expert, Kate Beddow is here to help.

There are lots of things and all of them relatively simple.

Get outside 

It might be dark and damp but you can still get outside. Go for a walk, tidy the garden, put some food out for the birds, take the dog out, take the kids to the park… whatever you enjoy. Getting some fresh air will clear your lungs and make you feel energised and more positive.

Eat well

This is important for two reasons; to give you more energy and make you feel mentally better, but also to help your body fight any seasonal bugs.

There is nothing more miserable than having a cold, or worse, it makes you feel listless and sorry for yourself. By eating more citrus fruit and green leafy vegetables you will give your body everything it needs to fight colds and flu as well as giving you more energy. If you reach for comfort food too often during the winter, your body will get more and more tired and struggle to fight any viruses.

Notice I’m not saying “no comfort food” but make sure you get your fix of vitamins and minerals too. Taking supplements particularly Vitamin C with Zinc and Vitamin D is really helpful at this time of year, especially if you know you struggle to eat enough fruit and veg.

Keep moving

It is so easy when it is colder and dark earlier to hibernate. This will impact on your physical and mental health. Our bodies need to move to process any stress and anxiety we experience during the day.

Making sure we get some exercise, even if it is just running up and down the stairs putting away the washing or making yourself walk to the post box, will make all the difference. If you are unable to leave the house just put on some good music and have a dance around the kitchen. Whatever you do, keep moving!

Sleep

Making sure you get enough sleep is so important to your wellbeing. It is while we are asleep that our body processes most of the stress we experience during the day, but also our brains process everything we have done during the day. Stress levels increase as our tiredness increases. Most people find it easier to sleep with the dark evenings and darker mornings, but if you don’t sleep well there are many things you can do to help you sleep better. (Don’t drink coffee after 6pm, make sure you are eating your meals at least a couple of hours (preferably 4hrs) before going to bed, don’t eat sugar in the evening and perhaps most importantly, switch your phone and other screens off at least an hour before you want to go to sleep.)

Keep in touch 

Ring your friends and family regularly. This year in particular, it is so easy to go for days without speaking to anyone outside your household.

We need human interaction and technology has been such a blessing this year. Get on Zoom, FaceTime or just pick up the phone and talk to someone every day. You will be amazed how much better you feel.

Many of us are missing our loved ones at the moment, but regular contact is possible and so important. Why not send a beautiful card or handwritten letter to let someone know you are thinking of them?

Ask for help

Many people will be struggling this winter. Whether it is help with your wellbeing, physical help (to get shopping or collect a prescription) or financial help, whatever you need, don’t be afraid to ask. There is always someone who will come to your aid. There are many food banks and collection points locally this year, charities are doing an amazing job supporting people who need a little extra help, and there is help from authorities with financial support. Don’t suffer in silence.

It might be that you are struggling with being inside isolating and you need someone to walk your dog or come and talk to you through the kitchen window for ten minutes. Whatever you need, if you don’t ask no one can help.

Hygge

 Hygge is a danish word which describes that cosy, comfy wellbeing we all feel when we have a hot drink, warm clothes and a blanket by a fire. They have much longer winters and virtually no daylight at this time of year but they embrace it by having candle, fairy lights, chunky blankets and creating corners of hygge where they can just snuggle down, read a book or watch a film and embrace the cosiness of the season. I think many people will be doing this this year. A few more Christmas lights and candles and a big blanket and some snacks with a big mug of hot chocolate is the perfect antidote to the cold and the sadness many of us are feeling because we are missing someone. Get those candles lit, dig out your thick socks and enjoy the hygge.

This winter will be a challenge for even the most equipped, but we can get through this together. We are all in this together, our circumstances are all different but we can weather this storm if we support each other.

If you want any more help with ideas for keeping yourself mentally well please do check out my website and Facebook page.

Kate Beddow is a coach, teacher, mindfulness and meditation teacher and wellbeing expert who is passionate about helping you to be your own hero.

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