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When Winter Plays Havoc With Your Mental Health

Winter can really play havoc with our anxiety and mood. So, stay around to the end and I’ll be covering top tips to anxiety proof your winter for you. I will be covering why anxiety is particularly difficult around the winter and key areas such as the cold weather, the dark, avoidance, mindset and routine. In the winter there is much less sunlight from Autumn we get less light in the mornings and the evenings draw and it gets cold. This impacts upon us, our anxiety and mental health because we need light to regulate our sleep patterns. In the absence of light, a hormone called melatonin is produced which makes us sleepy. This in turn impacts on how tired and sleepy we feel and impacts upon our natural sleep pattern. When our sleep is disturbed, we are more likely to feel anxious, agitated, overwhelmed and our ability to cope with things reduces. What can we do about it? We need as much daylight as we can get in winter. This helps with our sleep pattern, but it also gives us our much-needed boost of vitamin D which are both vital in supporting our emotional health and wellbeing. Here are some practical strategies you can implement right now to help: - Wake up with sunrise or if you have to wake up earlier use a light that it emulates a sunrise. This helps you naturally start to wake up rather than waking up in absolute darkness.

- Go outside in daylight as much as you can and allow the light on your skin. Use flexible working to take a break in the day where you can get the benefit of the light. I.e., if you usually walk your dog in the morning or night maybe take a mid-afternoon walk instead. - When indoors stay close to windows and where there is natural light. If you spend a lot of time at a desk or at work, consider what changes you could make to be closer to natural light. - If access to light is quite limited, you can get light boxes that can emulate day light and the use of day light bulbs can be helpful. - Adapting your environment to be uplifting and bright In the winter it gets cold, and we get cold. I personally am that person that really feels the cold and I am the one that receives all the freezing cold person memes from friends and family over the winter. Cold is of course uncomfortable but it also makes our body work harder to regulate our temperature and it also causes physical reactions and sensations which are very similar to anxiety. You may feel tense, your body may become rigid, you may shake, chatter your teeth, feel your heart beating faster. These are also symptoms of anxiety, and this can signal to your brain that you’re not ok and trigger anxiety symptoms so that you continue to feel these things and some more uncomfortable sensations. What can you we do about it? -Help yourself feel warmer -Make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the weather – you may want to invest in some warmer clothing - Keeping your environment warm or having access to things that can help warm you up such as a jumper, scarf, blanket, hot drink, hot water bottle, hand warmers etc - Visualise a warm place, visualise feeling warmer and imagine the warmth surrounding your body or the feeling of sun on your skin. - Adapting your environment to feel warm, cosy, inviting and soothing

Helping your body feel warmer will help your body to be relaxed and you will be less likely to then experience these symptoms as anxiety. It will also take the pressure off your body to regulate your temperature meaning more energy for you and other things rather than leading to agitation or tiredness which in turn can make you more vulnerable to experiencing anxiety. Do you hear or do you say to yourself ‘I'm dreading winter, I hate winter it is so long, it's drawn out I just hate it’. Have a think about what those words evoke and how they may impact upon you. What we think and believe creates our emotional response and our reality so these words can physically impact upon how we experience winter and cause some of the distress. If you have found winter difficult previously and you have thought to yourself, I don’t like winter or maybe you dread it then I invite you to think about What do you like about winter? What does winter give you the opportunity to do? What do you have to look forward to over the next couple of months? If you struggled with these questions then it’s no wonder you’re not looking forward to it so I invite you to plan something that you can look forward to, think about how you would like to invest your time over winter what would you like to do how you would like to feel and what can help you achieve this. In winter we naturally hibernate, our routine changes and because of this we may be avoiding situations that cause us anxiety. At this time your anxious mind is loving life because anxiety loves to avoid things as it doesn’t want to feel uncomfortable, stressed, tense and overwhelmed. Wahoo, we don’t have to go out, we don’t have to be in social situations, we don’t have to get on public transport etc. This is great in the short term but in the long term it makes those things much more difficult to do. Imagine not exercising for a couple of months and then booking in for the most difficult spinning class or challenging cross country run – it’s going to be difficult – yeah. Same different with anxiety if you don’t experience something for months when you experience it again it’s going to be more difficult because our tolerance or ability to cope with it diminishes. Don't completely stop doing what you're doing now, my advice would be to make simple adaptations to your current routine to make it winter proof. This could be from appropriate clothing to help you keep up with your outside exercise to planning things indoors or at a time when it is light. Have a think about your normal routine and what may naturally slip off because of winter and see how you can still do these things or reinvent them to be more winter proof. Changes in our routine and stopping doing things can have an impact upon our emotional wellbeing and anxiety because we may be stopping or doing less of the things that gives us connection to other people, that gives us our energy, joy, sense of purpose, achievement and zest for life. Therefore, it will come to no surprise that if we do stop these things it can get us down and can trigger more anxiety. If some of the things are just not possible during the winter month’s then think about how you would like to spend your time, what you would like to do that gives you a bit of what you’re missing. If you'd like to take the next step; maybe you are worried about winter, you know that it tends to be difficult period of time for you. If you need a little bit more than this information, I invite you to have a chat with me, let's see how we can work together to support you through these experiences. This is a complimentary (completely free chat), simply follow this link or message me to arrange a suitable time and date for you.

Be kind to yourself, With love Emma

Emma Draycott - Anxiety Relief Therapy

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