Emotional wellness: battling the winter blues
“You cannot tailor make the situations in life, but you can tailor make the attitudes to fit those situations before they arise.”—Zig Ziglar
Much like the seasons, we are constantly experiencing changes in our lives. Sometimes these changes can weigh a heavy toll on us, affecting our emotional wellness. This dimension of wellness involves the awareness, understanding, and acceptance of our feelings as they come and go.
As the days are becoming shorter and the nights are getting colder, it’s easy to begin feeling the emotional side effects of the winter blues. Many of us begin to feel a shortage of motivation and lower energy levels during these times. Despite these changes, your emotional well-being is a crucial factor of your overall health. Thankfully, there are many strategies you can use to the advantage of your emotional wellness during this cold season.
Get some sun
Most people acknowledge that the sun supplies our bodies with vitamin D. However, the sun can also nourish our minds as well. Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. While winter days are shorter and darker than other months, many people are exposed to less sunlight. Spending more time outdoors, pulling up the blinds in your home or office, and even changing your light bulbs to “full spectrum” bulbs to mimic natural light can have positive effects on your mood. (Source: Healthline.com)
Embrace the season
It is easy to get caught up in dreading the cold and holding a grudge against the pile of snow that accumulates on your car overnight. Whenever you feel yourself thinking negatively, immediately redirect your thoughts and focus on the positive. Instead of lingering on how cold it is, keep a good mentality about the better things winter has to offer to help you snuff out the winter blues.
Manage your stress
Stress affects both our emotional and physical wellness. Finding time in your week to sit back and relax can help you recharge and remain calm. Whether you’re enjoying the holiday movie collection on Netflix with a large mug of hot chocolate (and marshmallows, of course) or snuggling up on the couch with a warm sweater and your favorite book, taking some time for yourself is a great emotional wellness strategy. Mental mindfulness exercises, massage dates, guided relaxation, therapy dogs, yoga, and t’ai chi are just some of the resources available from Health Promotion and Wellness for stress management.
Catch some Z’s
With shorter days, people naturally want to sleep a little bit more during the winter. Sleep is an important part of overall health and well-being. Everyone is busy, putting school, work, family obligations and fun before sleep. With good time management, we can meet our shut-eye needs. Aim for seven to eight hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. That way, your sleeping patterns can normalize and you’ll have more energy.
Often, getting things off your chest makes you feel better. Talk to someone about how you feel. Whether it is a trusted friend or a trained professional, you do not need to go through tough times alone. Students can get help from Student Counseling Services by calling (309) 438-3655. Employee help is available through the Employee Assistance Program at (866) 659-3848.
Being aware of what you are feeling can help you to channel your emotions into productive, positive feelings. Achieving emotional balance lays the foundation for total body well-being.
Challenge yourself to make YOU a priority in 2015! Seven is a free program from Health Promotion and Wellness for students, faculty, and staff that focuses on the importance of the seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and vocational. Seven runs from September to the end of April, and you can join at any time. Participants log wellness activities to earn points toward monthly prize drawings and compete toward end of the year overall point totals. Participants also receive the Seven e-newsletter and information on campus wellness events. For additional details and to sign up, visit Wellness.IllinoisState.edu/Seven.
Additional emotional wellness resources
Guided Relaxation Audio
Information on Seasonal Affective Disorder
Lifestyle Enhancement Program from Health Promotion and Wellness
Mindfulness classes for students and employees
Student Counseling Service’s Self Health and Assessments