Coping with Winter Stress

Between the cold, wet weather and the shorter days, it’s easy to feel shut in and run down during the winter. As residents of the Valley can attest, sunny days are few and far between. Lack of sunlight and feeling stuck indoors can make you feel alone, isolated and even depressed.

“We may be more impacted by winter weather than those outside the Valley because of our location on the western slope of the mountains,” Andrew Heintz, Licensed Therapist and Social Worker for Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, said. “The increased cloud cover and low light exposure can be stressful for people.”

How we manage holiday pressures can also make a difference. Many people are stretched thin during the holidays by money and social obligations.

“How you approach the holidays can affect how you handle winter pressures,” Heintz said. “It’s important to focus on what you have control over and what’s really important. Cut yourself plenty of slack and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go exactly as hoped.”

If your holidays were stressful, those pressures can carry over into the winter. Sometimes even people who are not generally depressed struggle with “winter blues.” Some indicators of the winter blues can include sluggishness, fatigue, and low mood.

Here are some tips to help you keep winter stress under control:

  • Increase outdoor light exposure
  • Stay physically active
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Keep a good sleep schedule
  • Socialize
  • Do things you enjoy

The winter blues can make you feel unmotivated and make even the simplest tasks feel challenging. Setting realistic goals and expectations can help you manage stress.

“We have more control over our mood than we give ourselves credit for,” Heintz said. “Step back, take time for gaining perspective and for self-care. Connect with who and what is important in your life.”

Despite all your efforts, sometimes you may experience stress indicators in combination with sadness, depression, irritability, poor concentration, helplessness or guilt, sleep or appetite disturbance. If those signs last for two weeks or longer, talk to your doctor or mental health counselor.

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