The nights are drawing in, the temperature’s dropped and the brighter days of summer are well and truly behind us.
It’s typically the time of year when people may start to feel low; as the shorter days and gloomy weather takes a toll on their mental health and wellbeing.
It can leave people feeling depressed, demotivated, withdrawn and isolated. Some may have the winter blues, while for others it can seriously impact on their lives if they have seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, known as SAD.
And this year has an added factor to complicate things – with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic and the related restrictions and the consequences all of this may have on our feelings, relationships and day to day lives.
A professional counsellor can help you explore and understand how you’re feeling and support you to find ways to cope with this and move on that work for you.
You can find a counsellor of psychotherapist to help you by searching our Therapist Directory.
And some of our members have shared some tips and strategies that may help you if as we head into an uncertain winter.
Keep to a routine
Our member Rebecca Vivash describes how keeping to a routine, if possible, will help you feel that you have some control over your day.
She suggests timetabling self-care into your week – and also scheduling in something to look forward to.
She adds: “however small it may seem, having positive anticipation can be motivating and give you something to work towards, which is empowering and a mood booster in itself.”
Get outside and keep moving
A walk in the fresh air can be a huge help to some people.
Lina Mookerjee says: “During the winter, keeping moving is vital especially when we are stressed. A daily 30-minute walk in daylight is key to maintain your adequate Vitamin D and encourages endorphin release which elevates your mood.”
Look after your breathing
Lina describes how your breathing is an area you can do something about if you're feeling low or stressed.
She adds: “When stressed, shallow breathing is present and can make you feel more stressed. Taking longer, deeper and slower breaths will change your oxygen levels and help you feel more energised, present and centred.”
Think outside of your current situation
Our member Emma Brand describes how she uses an approach called the 'Magic 5' with her clients.
She explains: “When we feel stuck in a feeling in the present it can be hard to look ahead and refocus our feelings and emotions. I will offer a client, how would they feel about this in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 weeks and 5 months. This has enabled the client to think outside of the situation and explore how they make feel about this in the future - giving them time in a safe space to consider options and how these may work for them.”
Remember you have choices
Lina echoes the idea of thinking about the choices and options you have.
“When we feel anxious or low, we can often feel entrapped with fewer options. Always remind yourself that you have personal power and agency through the ability to choose. Give yourself permission to find out your options are and to make your choices based on what’s good for you and your wellbeing.”
Go with the flow
Indira Chima explains how living with uncertainty means we may feel we’re unable to make any firm plans.
She suggests: “If we can find a way to go with the flow, it will help us to stay afloat. So not just having Plan A but B and C as well and as many as it takes until we find one that helps us feel more in control of a situation that is out of our control.”
Use your senses
Emma says: “I have worked with clients on how they can use their senses to challenge and re-frame their feelings towards winter and feeling low in mood.
“For example, what smells the client may find calming, or remind them of the seasons. I also worked with a client who through recalling a winter meal they enjoyed cooking; brought back some comforting emotions. We were able to explore and underpin the feelings of the meal, the recipe and the cooking process, of which the client could adapt and take forward themselves.”
Notice your triggers for low mood
“Keep a feelings journal - writing or even drawing how you feel will help you to notice any patterns and triggers for low mood,” says Rebecca. “It can be empowering to have an insight into why you feel the way you do and will help you to create a sense of control in your world. Mindful noticing of where you hold tension in your body can also give clues as to how you are feeling.”
“Plan how you will continue to connect with friends and family,” encouraged Rebecca.
“Covid-19 has forced us to adjust the way we communicate but it can be difficult to find the motivation to keep in touch if you are feeling low. If you can make a plan to stay connected, it will help to alleviate feelings of isolation.”
Talk to a professional
If how you’re feeling is affecting your day to day life, then it may be time to seek support from a professional counsellor or psychotherapist.
Emma explains: “Therapists support clients to explore their feelings of uncertainty without judgement in an empathic space. Although this is an anxious time for many, there is a sense of community and that the client is not alone in this. I will often explore with the client that we are both on this journey together and I am there with them every step of the way.”
What is depression? What can you do if you're feeling depressed? BACP member Jackie Rogers explains how counselling can help.
Seasonal affective disorder
What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? What are the signs for SAD? How can counselling help with SAD? Our members Lina Mookerjee and Glenda Roberts explain.
How to get therapy
Where and how you can get access to counselling and psychotherapy, including free and paid for services