Many of us are familiar with the “winter blues”, and some of you may even be aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is common in the winter months. SAD affects approximately three million people in the United States alone. The combination of less daylight and more time spent inside due to inclement or cold weather can have a huge impact on mood, personality, behavior and emotional, as well as physical, health. This applies to everyone, not just those prone to depression, and can actually manifest as anxiety or worry. Consider how being less active often signals more downtime, which often means more alone time with our thoughts. While I believe time with your thoughts is necessary and beneficial, it is vital that we learn to cope with and manage those thoughts and the emotions they evoke.
During the winter months, my clients have expressed feeling overwhelmed, defeated, unmotivated, lethargic and sad, not to mention an increase in physical symptoms like pain, fatigue and stress. So what can be done to prevent or manage these winter worries and embrace our inner warrior to get us to spring?
#1. Keep moving.
While it may seem appealing to brace for the frigid cold and snow by hibernating, it is imperative that we keep moving. Not just exercise, but moving our body has tremendous benefits and can actually make it easier to get through those cold winter months. Changes in the weather and the amount of light we are exposed to affect our ability to concentrate, focus and retain information. By engaging in movements, like walking, deep breathing and stretching, we can activate our brains and actually combat those SAD symptoms. Moving around produces body heat. The more active you are, the better your blood circulation will be. This means that warm blood gets to your fingers and toes, keeping them warm. Applying light pressure to our body, engaging in self-massage and rubbing our extremities generates heat and is also an easy way to stay warm.
#2. Stay connected.
This does not mean warming up by your fire while scrolling through your social media. Movement keeps us connected when we are susceptible to “hibernating”. Moving throughout the day, whether it’s walking to the water cooler at work, grabbing coffee in the morning, meeting a friend at the gym or having dinner with family, is a way in which we remain connected to the world around us. Remember that moving has a social component and that the best way to get through the winter is to engage with the people around you. After all, time flies when we are having fun! Go out with your friends, connect with family, and find ways to remain social. The winter will be over before you know it.
#3. Don’t weight.
Movement and exercise can encourage a healthy weight. We are susceptible to weight gain during the holidays and winter months. Our body needs more fat to stay warm, but we can use exercise to maintain a healthy weight and to shed pounds safely and effectively. Remember to consult your physician before starting an exercise regimen. It’s hard to think about summer when winter has just arrived. It is beneficial to your physical and emotional health, however, to proactively get in or stay in shape throughout the winter so as not to add stress in the spring when you want to be on the beach in a bathing suit. The winter is not the time to “let yourself go”. We should all embrace our body, no matter the shape, throughout the entire year. It will have a greater impact on your self-esteem and emotional health in the long run.
#4. Get warm and stylish.
Staying active this winter, as tough as that may seem, also means being prepared to brave the cold and sometimes dreary weather. Só Dança makes it easy to stay warm, cozy and stylish this winter. We have complied three of my favorite items that will not only keep you warm but will also enhance your mood this season.
It is necessary to keep those muscles warm before, during and after a class, a performance or exercising. These Elastic Lace Warm-up Booties are not only a great way to accomplish that, but they also come in bright colors, which is a great way to boost your mood. We often stick to darker tones and hues during darker months, but adding a little color to your wardrobe can make all the difference. Additionally, if you are not able to wear bright colors on your classes, then warm-up gear can be a great way to brighten your wardrobe while sticking to your studio’s dress code.
If you love color, then the Sweets Collection is for you. These brightly colored leotards for children and adults are vibrant, festive and fun. While this collection isn’t ideal for everyone, it does incorporate many different colors, which allows for more variety and doesn’t mean you have to choose just one solid color.
Maybe color isn’t your thing. With these What Are You Waiting For? – Double Sided Leggings, you can experiment with fun patterns and designs. Plus, you get two designs in one, which expands your wardrobe and saves you money. Perhaps the money you save can go toward a much needed vacation to a warm and sunny place. Just a thought!
By now, you are hopefully seeing some ways that you can ditch the worries this winter and brave the cold. Remember that changes in mood are natural, but changes in behavior and personality can signal larger concerns. If you are feeling increasingly anxious, overwhelmed or depressed this season, then do not hesitate to reach out and contact a mental health professional. It is a great way to practice self-care and does not mean that you are weak, crazy or less than. Take charge of your emotional wellbeing this winter, and you will not regret it.
By Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT, Dance/Movement Therapist, Chicago Dance Therapy.
Erica Hornthal is a licensed professional clinical counselor and board certified dance/movement therapist based in Chicago, IL. She received her MA in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago and her BS in Psychology from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Erica is the founder and CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy, the premier dance therapy and counseling practice in Chicago, IL. As a body-centered psychotherapist, Erica assists clients of all ages and abilities in harnessing the power of the mind-body connection to create greater awareness and understanding of emotional and mental health. For more, visit www.chicagodancetherapy.com.