Evy Smith, MA LCMHC, CTTS-M, is an EFAP Counselor & Tobacco Treatment Specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Evy Smith, MA LCMHC, CTTS-M, is an EFAP Counselor & Tobacco Treatment Specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Lately, I hear people saying: “Gosh, it’s already November!” Yes, the autumn – and now stick season — is upon us and with that comes a shift in our energy and mood.

We are naturally affected by changes in our environment, and our energy is influenced by the decrease in daylight hours. During these colder and darker days, we may notice a decrease in our energy and less spring (pardon the seasonal pun) in our step. We may have a tendency to stay inside to feel “safe and warm.” We become less active, so we may not be exercising as much. There may be an increase in consumption of carbohydrates (partly activated by Halloween candy!), followed by the comfort foods of the holidays.

As you look out the window, you may find yourself saying: “How can I renew my energy? What to do to stay fresh and energized?”

Three children playing in snow

Self-Care in the Winter

You need to manage three levels of your energy: Physical, Mental, and Social. All three require regular fueling of body and mind, including activity or stimulation in order for you to maintain balance.

Physical

Your Diet. Make healthy, balanced nutritional food and beverage choices.

  • Go for fresh vegetables and fruits and other food sources of Vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, rainbow trout, fish oils (like cod liver oil), fortified milk, and egg yolks. They are the richest sources of vitamin D.
  • Eat more complex carbohydrates and fewer to no simple carbohydrates and sugars.
  • Increase your intake of omega-3 food sources, such as fatty fish (mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines) and oils from flaxseed, canola, and walnuts.
  • Stay hydrated to avoid dehydration as the air is extra dry in winter. Dehydration can cause us to feel fatigued, dizzy, and unable to concentrate. This is especially true for elders.

Your Physical Fitness. Exercise is a great stress reliever and mood booster!

  • Build muscle tone with cardiovascular and strength training.
  • Relax your body (and mind!) with yoga, Tai Chi, and walking.
  • Get out in the snow and do winter sports – it’s a great stress reliever, and lots of fun.
  • Take 5 minutes to stretch at work every 90-120 minutes. Try arm circles, various stretches of muscle groups — even a short walk can change up your posture and help you recharge.
  • Remember to rest your body! Recuperation in the form of rest, sleep, and fun are key. Getting extra sleep is definitely an okay thing to do, by way of establishing the “early to bed early to rise” pattern.

Mental

Your Mind: Intellectual stimulation will keep you alert. Emotional balance will decrease your stress levels.

  • Attend the theater or movies, play board games, read, attend lectures, or a book club and other local activities to keep your mind sharp.
  • Winter and the holidays can be a time of great joy, but also of sorrow and stress. Gain emotional balance by acknowledging your emotions, identifying them, and putting them into words. Understand them to better understand yourself and your path forward.

Social

Your Social Wellbeing: Don’t hibernate or go dormant during the winter. It is important to maintain social connections in a way that works best for you. Friends and family are often the best remedy for the winter blues.

Get outdoors into the fresh air and natural light whenever possible; have a barbecue and invite some friends over for an outdoor fire pit and roast a few marshmallows; play outside in the snow with the kids or pet and you will discover that human energy is also renewable! In so doing, you will be resilient in any season.

Evy Smith, MA LCMHC, CTTS-M, is an EFAP Counselor & Tobacco Treatment Specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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