Coping with mental health issues during the winter and during Covid can be very difficult.  Many of the options available to people during the spring and summer are not available during the winter which makes dealing with mental health issues during the winter difficult.  I have many patients who report having a harder time dealing with their mental health during the winter because many of their coping strategies are not available such as spending the day outside.  Additionally, we are dealing with another surge of the Coronaviruses so being around people is difficult right now.  Jina Swani wrote an article about dealing with physical and mental health issues during the winter.  Her views regarding how to manage your mental health during the winter are very good.  Therefore, I am discussing her points below.

Mental health tips for individuals dealing with the stress of winter?

Mindfulness is the art of being present in the moment without judgement for how you are feeling. It’s always important to remember that whatever emotions you may be feeling are OK. This year has been tough enough, and it will continue to hold many unique challenges for us all. When you feel stressed:

  • Stop and take a moment to acknowledge your feelings. It’s OK to say to yourself, “I am feeling stressed.”
  • Take a deep breath. First, breathe in through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, let your shoulders drop down away from your ears. 
  • Take another deep breath and scan your body for tension. Then, try and actively release any tension from your muscles. 
  • After a few more breaths, refocus your attention on the next task that is within your realm of control. Now, you’ll be ready to move on with your day.

How can people cope with loneliness this year?

Reach out to others if you are struggling. Send a friend a message and set up a plan to talk via phone or video chat. We sometimes forget that chances are, if you are feeling lonely, your loved ones are likely feeling the same way and missing you.

It’s smart to create a routine for regular check-ins with friends and family. Sometimes, something as simple as starting a group text chat can really help people feel connected. Remember to never be afraid of letting others know how you are feeling.

With seasonal stress, food-related problems may arise. How can individuals manage these issues?

The holidays can lead to more snacking, larger meals and overindulging in things like desserts and alcohol. By setting intentions with yourself about your food and drink intake, you can better monitor your portions.

In addition, meal planning can help you pay attention to what and when you are eating. Ultimately, this practice has the power to help you cut down on overeating or indulging in foods due to convenience.

Lastly, I always tell my patients to be aware of their emotions. For some, increased levels of stress, anxiety, sadness or loneliness can lead to emotional eating. Always consider reaching out to a mental health professional if you are concerned about your moods or the general state of your mental health. You’re never alone.

Hopefully you will find these ideas helpful.  Remember you are never alone.  While many psychotherapists are very busy, you can still find a psychotherapist for psychotherapy.  There are a number of call lines you can call and talk to someone. Finally, there is always friends and family. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help.  Mental health is something everyone deals with and that everyone needs help with at times, especially now during the pandemic. It’s as normal as a headache or backache so no need to be embarrassed.  However, it’s hard to receive help if you refuse to ask or refuse to accept it when people offer it.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience and he specializes in treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders.  For more information about his work visit his website or his Facebook page or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.