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5 Self Care Tips for Coping with Winter Darkness

Bleak days are here again. 

I hate to be melodramatic, but short, dark days are hard on me. I’m tired, agitated, and self conscious. I feel unsettled and experience mood swings. This is all relatively new for me, having grown up in the Sunshine State, but I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms to make these next few months a little easier.

And on the particularly bad days, I remind myself that the days won’t always be getting shorter! The sun will shine again.

1. Get house plants

I live in a basement apartment, so outdoor views are limited. I’ve found that my house feels a little more like a cozy Hobbit Hole when it’s full of plants. My current favorites are succulents, like Aloe, and a Cat Palm our old neighbors gave us when they moved.

It’s not just seeing green plants that calms me, I’ve made a ritual out of carefully tending to them, moving around the house, inspecting new growth, and adjusting them so they get the sunlight they need. Plus, plants filter air, making it more oxygen rich and cleaner overall. They also release up to 97% of water they take in, acting as a natural humidifier.

2. Use a SAD lamp

If the darker months mess with your mood, you might want to sit next to some artificial sunshine each day. Though not a perfect solution, light therapy can offer relief from seasonal depression if used consistently. I have mild Seasonal Affective Disorder and this will be my first year using a lamp each day, so I’ll let you know how I feel. (I’m using this one, which I purchased secondhand.)

Note: This is by no means a cure all. If you have severe anxiety or depression symptoms, or are having trouble coping with mood swings, see your doctor. 

3. Unplug from social media

Heavy social media use is associated with depression and, according to this alarming article, even developers of these addictive platforms are distancing themselves from them.

Install a plugin to remove your Facebook Feed, uninstall apps from your phone, and seek out real life connections. I use the News Feed Eradicator extension for Google Chrome – it stops the mindless scrolling immediately.

4. Read a good book

Lose yourself in a narrative. For really good, therapeutic reading, I recommend memoirs, YA science-fiction, and anything else that can transport you somewhere else. I enjoyed Scott Sigler’s Generations Trilogy and am currently working through Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.

5. Be kind to yourself

This has been the key to successfully getting through the dark months for me. It’s ok that you’re feeling tired and agitated. It’s not your fault. Breathe deeply, cuddle under a blanket, be nice to yourself.

I like to make myself a hot cup of chai each day when I get home from work. The kick of caffeine energizes me enough to finish up what I need to do for the day and the warm spicy-ness is always an indulgent treat.

What are your tips for handling the winter blues?

Photos: Artur Rutkowski and Danielle Dolson on Unsplash

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