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Coping with the Cold, How to Stay Cheerful During the Long Cold Winter

By: 
Mary McPherson

If you find yourself feeling a little “off” during the winter months, you’re not alone. The darkness. The cold. The stress, loneliness, and even grief that may come with the holidays. It can be a difficult time, and somehow every year I seem to be taken off guard by how the winter affects my mood and have to remind myself of how to combat it. Spring is on the way but while the cold weather is still here these are some of my favorite ideas for how to cope, and even enjoy this time of year.

You’ve likely heard some of these suggestions before, and there’s a reason for that – they work!

These three simple steps will lift the winter blues: exercise, eat well, and connect with social supports.

Exercise increases your levels of serotonin and endorphins, which is known to improve your mood. You may not be able to get outside every day so try some indoor options. Join a local gym or use a fitness program on TV or the internet.

It’s just as important to exercise your mind. This can be done by changing your routine and giving yourself a new challenge. Try a puzzle, a book, or maybe a new recipe. I find it helpful to take a different route home sometimes so I get a change of scenery. It gets me to make new observations and think differently.

*Did you know? The health center offers a free chair exercise group every Friday at 1:00 in the community room. It is open to anyone, all ages and abilities, and no registration is needed.

The winter months can be a real roller coaster for eating habits. During the holidays it’s easy to fill up on sweets, then when New Year’s hits, many of us are resolving to make major changes that are not always realistic. It’s understandable to want comfort food when it’s cold. You won’t find me eating much salad over the winter, but I do love soup and smoothies which are great ways of sneaking in fruits and veggies.

*Did you know? The health center offers the Health Habit’s Support Group every other Wednesday in the community room. Come learn about nutrition and how to achieve your goals. Anyone is welcome and no registration is required.

When you’re feeling down it’s easy to isolate. Bad weather is often the perfect excuse not to see friends or family. But, staying connected to each other is actually what we need. Texting and social media are ok, but a phone call or face to face interactions are best.

*Did you know? Your local public library offers free or discount passes to museums throughout the city. If you’re looking for an activity to try with a friend this is a great one.

Feeling “off” is different than depression. It is important not to ignore these signs, especially if they occur most of the day nearly every day health center

* depressed mood most of the day

* decreased interest or pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy

* difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual

* feeling tired and less energetic

* feeling worthless or excessively guilty

* difficulty concentrating more than usual

* thoughts of death, suicide, or harming others

South Boston Community Health Center offers individual counseling and psychiatry services. Please reach out to your primary care provider to discuss a referral if you notice any of these.

Mary McPherson

Mary is a licensed independent clinical social worker at SBCHC. She started as an intern 5 years ago and now is an intergral part of our behavioral health staff. She sees patients at the Health Center with visits in both English and Spanish.