How to cope with the winter blues in COVID-19 times

The arrival of a new year full of possibilities is usually something to celebrate, but for many, the pandemic has left us feeling less than optimistic for what's ahead. 

We invited three UKCP therapists to share their tips on how to beat the winter blues and better cope with the months to come.

Fe Robinson:

  • Recognise your body's natural rhythms and how it is responding to the time of year. We are not designed to have the same activity levels all year round so listen to what it's telling you and make adjustments to work with it, not over-ride it.
  • Renew yourself with getting out in nature, be it by water, trees, the beach or open landscapes, where possible. Dressed appropriately, any weather can be rejuvenating. Make the most of the light by going out at lunchtime if you are working throughout daylight hours.
  • Stay mobile and look after your body. Sitting inactively is not going to help your state of mind, and it can make your body seize up and get more easily injured when you do move more.
  • Notice this winter period is one of stripping back and laying bare, and parallel this psychologically by exploring your deeper feelings and thoughts. What is being revealed in this time of less activity, less light, and less distraction? Journal, draw, talk... seek therapy if it helps.
  • Savour what you appreciate, perhaps by daily taking a few minutes to notice what's standing out for you right now, and what you are thankful for.
  • Connect meaningfully with the people you love and care about. Remember those early days of lockdown where much creative stuff was going on on video-platforms? Why not design some for the festive season and re-invigorate the online connections where physical connections are not possible?
  • List ten things that make your heart sing that you are able to do, and regularly do them. From watching a sunrise or sunset to hot chocolate to dancing like no-one's watching, they don't need to be big or extravagant. It’s more likely the small, simple things that give a sense of joy. You could encourage those you love to do this too, and enjoy doing some of them together.
  • Make sure you are noticing what is possible this and planning how to savour and make the most of it. Which routines can you do just as normal usual?
  • Which can you adapt to this year? Recognise what is not possible and make space for your feelings about that. It's a loss, it needs grieving for, you don't have to pretend it’s all fine or sweep it under the carpet. Be real with yourself and those you're intimate with.
  • Look towards the spring and our emergence gradually from restrictions, and reflect on what you can do during this winter period to ready yourself for what you want to have happen next. How can you make this a time you look back on with pride and pleasure?

 

Sharn Tomlinson:

  • Focussing on things we are grateful for can make us feel positive and well. That may be tricky this year, especially if you are feeling alone and not able to be with friends and family, but try and create an opportunity for yourself every day to think about three things you are grateful for. Research shows that after just three days people reported feeling happier.
  • Staying in the moment – we cannot change the past, and the future is unpredictable. Practice focusing on what is going on right now, on things that you can control. What noises can you hear? Can you smell anything? What can you see, and how do you feel? Are you thirsty? You can only control how you think about this moment, feelings will pass.
  • I think one of the most important five ways to achieve wellbeing for me is to stay connected. What is your favourite way of communicating? Writing, talking, texting, whatever it is, do it now: make that phone call, write that postcard, get in touch with an old friend. Smile at someone when you are walking down the street – it is remarkable how that is passed on. Smiling at someone – wishing them a good morning can be a great way of staying connected to people.

 

Julie Dearden:

  • Given that meeting people is difficult this year, it will be important that when we have the opportunity we choose people that can both give and receive in conversations to ensure we are nourished by the interaction, even if that is just on the phone.
  • It is more important than ever to ensure you move your body it can help shift feelings of anxiety and low mood.
  • It can be tempting to either put a positive spin or see everything as bad about our difficult year. Try to acknowledge the mixture of both loss and opportunity. Offer yourself compassion and kind words especially when you are struggling.
  • Nurture yourself in every way: good food, exercise, warm restful environment. I have been trying to adopt the Norwegian principles of hygge which essentially means cosiness.
  • The opportunity for hugs and physical connection is less for some and non-existent for others. Look after yourself by keeping warm and hugging your body.


If you’d like to talk to a qualified psychotherapist to receive more personal support, you can search the Find a Therapist register.

You can also find support by contacting:

  • In an emergency, call: 999
  • NHS (England), call: 111
  • NHS Direct (Wales), call: 0845 46 47
  • The Samaritans 24-hour helpline, call: 116 123
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