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  • Many of us struggle during the winter months with stress and anxiety, which stems greatly from deviation in routine.
  • Fortunately, if we take a few extra steps to take care our mental health and wellbeing, we can get back to a happy place.
  • You should start by making self-care a serious priority; incorporate your favorite things into your routine where you can and work to center yourself daily.
  • A few specific techniques that will benefit your mental health this winter is journaling about your gratitudes and helping others.
  • Another important key is to keep a healthy daily routine, even if that just means showering each day and eating three nutritious and delicious meals.
  • Finally, let go of any guilt you feel about being a little down this winter, as this is normal; shift your focus to what is in your control, which is how you move forward from here.

Brace yourselves… winter is coming! No, seriously. This isn’t a promo for Game of Thrones, this is real life. The reality of yet another winter cycle, filled with snow, ice storms, and freezing temperatures is here. Now, to create some mental calm during this widely despised season, we consulted Kimberly Hershenson, licensed master social worker, to get her take on winter and its ill effects on our mental health.

“Individuals tend to feel less friendly and more anxious in the colder months,” she revealed. “Shorter days, chillier weather, disruption in schedules and financial stresses can all contribute in some form or another to this.” Hershenson delves further into the important role of routines: “Having a consistent routine is important for many people, especially those who have experienced depression in the past. Winter often causes disruptions in schedules from holidays to kids being home from school with illnesses. Sleep, eating, and work habits may change during the colder months, which can contribute to feeling ‘colder.’”

The good news is that you can employ a few simple techniques to take a little extra care of your mental health and wellbeing this time of year. Here are Hershenson’s recommendations for staying well in the winter:

1) Don’t just practice self-care—prioritize it!

“Take time out of the day for yourself,” Hershenson recommends. “Start a meditation practice (free apps are available on your phone such as 10% Happier or Breathe), take a long shower or bubble bath, cook yourself your favorite meal, or get your favorite meal delivered and enjoy it free of electronics. Taking time for yourself will help center you.”

2) Write down your gratitudes about three times per week.

Journaling about what you’re grateful for can also go a long way. “It is all too easy to focus on the negatives in your life but the focus should be on what you have positive in your life. List 10 things you are grateful for, which can be anything from reality TV to your family,” Hershenson advises. New research from Berkeley shows that writing in your gratitude journal three times a week might have the greatest impact than journaling less or more would.

3) Serve others.

Another tip for taking extra good care of yourself in the winter is to serve other people. “Give a family member or friend a call or shoot them a text to see how they are doing. Listening to others’ problems and lending an ear is a good way to get out of your head,” she explains. You could also try volunteering at a local school, animal shelter, or a number of other places in your community.

4) Create and maintain a healthy daily routine.

As Hershenson mentioned earlier, following a healthy daily routine is incredibly beneficial to our mental health. And it’s important we do our best to continue following a routine even in the winter months when our everyday is changed by holidays and other disruptions. “Shower, get dressed, put on makeup, and eat breakfast every day, even if you have no other plans but to stay at home,” she suggests.

5) Let go of the guilt.

And finally, Hershenson says you should let go of the guilt you might be feeling. “It isn’t your fault that you’re feeling ‘colder’ so let that go,” she says. “One way to let go of the guilt is to accept what you can and cannot control about the situation. You cannot control the fact that you’re currently not feeling friendly. You can control whether you take care of yourself with proper nutrition, sleep, and looking after your health by getting check-ups.”

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