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Extension Education Highlight: Getting over the winter blues

Young woman standing by a window
Sam Lion

Sariah Israelsen: Welcome back to USU Extension Educational Highlight. Joining us this week is Eva Timothy, assistant professor at USU extension, to talk about how to overcome the winter blues.

So, even though the snow is melting in a lot of areas, and there's still quite a bit on the ground, and it's still kind of chilly outside. And I think this long winter has affected a lot of people, me included.

So, Eva, I just wanted to ask you that now that it's starting to get a little bit warmer, but it's still chilly, what are some things that we can do to overcome those blues that we've collected through the winter?

Eva Timothy: Oh, absolutely. That's a great question. So, I had an experience recently over the weekend, and I woke up in a terrible mood. I was like, "Oh, why am I feeling so down?" and just out of sorts. And it was sunny outside, and I was like, "I really need to get outside."

And I was feeling a little snappy with my family members, my loved ones; you know, you tend to take things out on them.

I had been invited to do a family activity with some extended family members. And I just needed to practice some self care. So I said no to that family event. And I went outside and I took my kids with me, and we did some yard work.

And we just had a really good time together, I was able to give a lot of positive praise, because I was feeling pretty frustrated with one of my kids, I was in an off mood. And so I needed to do some things for me to improve my mood.

So, thinking about that story, there are four recommendations that I have. One is physical exercise.

The second is to get out in that sunshine as much as possible. If it's too cold outside, get in front of a sunny window, that's going to help you as well. And you can also relax while you're doing that; you can read a book, which is really great for mental fatigue. And you might be experiencing a little of that as well with the use of winter blues.

And then creating situations where you can have positive interactions with your friends and your family, those people that you value most.

And then of course that self-care. So, I wanted to go into each one of these little points, those four recommendations.

So physical exercise, why physical exercise? One, it boosts moods, it creates feelings of accomplishment, and improves our concentration and our alertness. It can reduce anxiety.

Sunshine. It can increase the serotonin, which improves our mood and sleep. And it helps you feel calmer and more focused.

And then of course, another great benefit is as you're soaking up those rays from the sun, it allows the body to be able to absorb and create that vitamin D, which is so great for healthy bones.

And then creating a positive atmosphere, a situation where you can have these positive interactions that can be really hard when we're feeling off and down. And we're just not happy and energetic. Like we tend to be a little bit more snappy, which nobody wants that feeling of looking back and be like, "Oh my gosh, I was just a beast today."

So, I found a way for me to get outside with my kids. And reminding myself when I got frustrated, like, "Oh, it's okay. They did some things to help. Now they're playing." And using a lot of positive praise, find ways to change your thinking, and think more about the positive and find the positives and praise and thank people around you for those positive things that they are doing.

So, it creates like this happiness within us because we're focusing on gratitude.

And then also that self-care. So, I said no, it would have been great to go spend time with family. But what I really needed was time for me time to do something to take care of me. And it's great to spend time with family. Yes, but sometimes we have to think about that good, better and best what is most necessary for me at this time.

And so, we've got to take that time for us. And it is perfectly okay to say no and do those things that are going to help us recover and feel relaxed and feel better.

And I want to leave off with this quote from the Mental Health First Aid site. And it says that "practicing self care is clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, increase happiness, and can help us adapt to changes and build strong relationships and recover from setbacks."

And of course, if these blues are really starting to impact your life, they're impeding with your day to day living. Go talk to your doctor, seek out their help and their counsel. There might be more that you need, especially if you've tried all these and it's just not working. Seek out some other benefits from a doctor or someone who as a trained therapist trained and licensed therapist.