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10 Ways To Stay Mentally Healthy Throughout Winter

4th Dec 2020

The pandemic, including the lockdowns and changing tier systems, can be tricky to navigate, particularly as we start to enter the winter months. For many of us, the gradual easing of lockdown brings longed-for opportunities to see friends, play sport, and return to a daily routine that we value. But for others, the much-anticipated changes can also bring feelings of fear and uncertainty – over keeping ourselves and others safe, our employment, and future choices – and not knowing how to spend our extra time indoors – which can be difficult for our mental health.

Along with taking advice from experts, our team have put together 10 tips to help manage your mental wellbeing and make the upcoming winter time more positive for you.
 

  1. Explore Outdoors

Have you ever noticed how you feel after a walk in the fresh winter air? Breathing fresh air can have a huge positive effect on our wellbeing. You don’t have to travel far to the countryside or go to the beach or even hug a tree! Connecting to the outside world can help you feel more grounded, lift your spirits, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. It doesn't cost anything, and you can still get Vitamin D on a cloudy day. You could even bring something inside your home from outdoors – some coloured leaves, shells, or stones.
 

  1. Connect with Friends and Family

Feeling socially connected, especially in an increasingly isolated world, is more important now than ever. We can stay in touch with the people that mean something to us over the phone, through Zoom (or another online platform), or taking part in an outdoors activity with them. As well as brightening your day, you will be brightening their day too.
 

  1. Listen to Your Body

Most of the time our mind takes over and runs the show, but have you ever listened to what your body is telling you? Put your phone away, get nice and comfy and spend some time in stillness. Focus on your breathing and take longer, slower breaths. This can help you move away from distracting thoughts and regulates your response to stress. Try breathing in for a count of 4 and exhaling for a count of 4, and repeat. There are many phone apps available which can talk you through calming breathing exercises, such as Calm, Stop Breathe and Think, and iBreathe.
 

  1. Take a Break from Screens

On average, we spend over 3 hours a day on our phones and using social media. This is a huge part of your day that you could swap for doing something that makes you feel better and improves your life. Imagine what you could do with that time. We use social media to connect with others, but if we are constantly seeing perfect photos which can lead us to destructively compare ourselves to others, this can make us feel even more isolated. Instead of reaching for your phone as soon as you wake up, why not try doing something nice for yourself? Have a hot drink, start a new book, or go for a morning walk. You could even charge your phone in another room or put a daily time limit on your social media use.
 

  1. Learn Something New

Learning something new, or taking up a creative pastime, can help you escape from stressful thoughts, increases your knowledge, and gives your brain something new to focus on. You don’t need to be an artistic person to have fun creating something. Make something for yourself to enjoy the process, rather than producing to show others. Maybe you love trying new makeup looks, abstract painting, photography, making music, model making or baking?
 

  1. Get a Plan Together

Is there anything fun you want to do, or achieve, in the future? Put together a plan. Just writing your goals down and imagining yourself reaching them can transport you into a more positive place. Go big with planning trips, cars and homes, or everyday plans such as ‘I’d like to become healthier and show kindness to others more’. Figuring out your goals will give you direction in life, and something to work towards.
 

  1. Schedule in Fun

Make sure you allow time for fun, amongst your daily life routines. This could be joining a virtual choir, baking your favourite cookies, online gaming, learning a new language, or losing yourself in a colouring book. You can even live stream the Northern Lights! It might be that doing something nice like getting chocolates or writing an encouraging card for a friend would really make their day too. Or take it a step further and get involved with your local community or charitable organisations. You get to do something you enjoy, whilst bringing joy and fun to someone else too.
 

  1. Exercise Regularly

Moving your body for 30 minutes a day is a great self-care practice to get endorphins flowing and boost energy. Aerobic exercise is one of the top ways to reduce anxiety levels. There are lots of free high-quality home workouts on YouTube, such as Joe Wicks PE Lessons and HIIT training. If you are feeling ambitious, you could even try the couch to 5k challenge, or if you prefer to start off with some lighter exercise you could take part in a free morning yoga routine on YouTube to wake up your muscles, or venture out for a walk to explore your local area.
 

  1. Keep a Routine

As the days get shorter, it can become increasingly difficult to get up in the mornings, especially when it's still dark outside. Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day is a great start. It's been proven that the most beneficial amount of sleep to aim for is between 6 - 9 hours a night. Having a regular sleep routine, including a healthy eating routine, can reduce stress levels and promote better health.
 

10. Seek Support

You don’t have to feel alone. If you are age 13 – 24 and are experiencing poor mental health and wellbeing as a result of Coronavirus, including struggling to continue at school, college, university, or work, you can sign up for mentoring and counselling support with our Head Space project.

We also recommend speaking to a friend, family member, or someone you trust.

You can speak to a helpline or sign up for more intensive and specialist therapy/counselling support. We have listed some useful resources and support helplines for you below:

  • Mental Health Helplines
  • The Children's Society
  • Anxiety Reducing Phone Apps
  • Dorset Mind  Support for Anxiety
  • Connection – 24-hour helpline 0300 123 5440, offering urgent telephone access to mental health advice and support for people of all ages
  • Kooth – a free service for young people aged 11 – 18 to talk about emotional health and wellbeing. It is online tool that is accessible from any mobile device. Young people wanting to use Kooth can speak to trained counsellors anonymously about their thoughts and feelings.
  • Samaritans – whatever you're going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116 123 for free
  • Young Minds – Text YM to 85258 (the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger) for free 24/7 support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors. Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
  • Childline – to speak to someone about what's happening and how you're feeling. Call 0800 1111 or visit the website for 1:2:1 chat.