The winter months can be a challenging time for many of us and our mental health. Shorter days resulting in less light, cold and sometimes extreme weather can influence our mood and make it difficult to go about our daily lives.
This winter is likely to be even tougher for many people. The added stress of the cost of living crisis, as well as worries about the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and Coronavirus all affecting us in one way or another. Even the time of year can have an affect, with some people more vulnerable than others during winter. For example, 73% of people who have a long-term health condition have said their physical activity is restricted more, which can affect their mental health. In fact, 41% of people in the UK find the winter to have a negative impact on their mental health.
With everything going on, both at home and around the world, it is more important than ever to look after your wellbeing this winter. Dr Steve Tomkins, Chief Medical Officer for Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, shares a few practical tips that you can do to help support your mental wellbeing:
“Looking after your mental health has never been more important, it helps us be more resilient to deal with the challenges in these difficult times. Learning how to reframe things, how to be more mindful or even just recognising how much better we feel by simply being outside can really help. Please consider reading the tips below and pause to think if any of them might help you in the coming months. Please value yourself.”
- Reframe your thoughts: Sometimes we might develop patterns of thoughts that are unhelpful. This affects the way we feel and can lead to unhelpful actions, but it is possible to recognise, challenge and replace our unhelpful thoughts. Learning how to do this can really help to improve our mental health and wellbeing.
- Be in the here and now: Sometimes we can get caught up in worrying about the future or things we can’t control. Take some time to sit quietly and think about how you feel right now. Look at what is around you, what you are thinking about right now. This can help you gain a better perspective and feel better. This is known as being more mindful.
- Get a good nights sleep: Getting good-quality sleep is so important for our mental health and can make a big difference to how we feel. It’s important to get enough sleep and there are lots of things that can help us to develop a healthy sleeping routine. These include; keeping regular sleep hours, create a calm environment, move a bit more, write down your worries and put down the caffeine and alcohol. More tips can be found here: Sleep problems - Every Mind Matters - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- Be aware of your limits with constant negative news: There is a lot going on at moment; a cost of living crisis, war in Ukraine and a climate emergency. Think about how much information and news you take in and be aware of how it can affect you. ‘Doom scrolling’ – the act of constantly scrolling through negative news stories – can have a significant impact on our mental health. It may be a good idea to mute or turn off news notifications on your smartphone, or limit your news intake to reading a morning paper or watching the evening news.
- Connect with others: Connecting with others is important for our mental health and can help us to feel better even when we don’t feel like socialising. There are lots of different ways to do this whether it’s in person, online or over the phone. Spending quality time with friends or family, talking to someone about how we are feeling or finding ways to help other people can all help to improve your mental wellbeing.
- Live a healthy life: Our mental health goes hand in hand with our physical health and there are small changes we can make to take care of both. Being active, enjoying the outdoors and having a healthy, balanced diet can all help to boost mental wellbeing. Also, binning bad habits like smoking, and cutting down on alcohol and caffeine can have a positive effect on our mood. You can find support of how to do this on the Live Well website.
- Do something for yourself: When we don’t feel our best, it can stop us from doing enjoyable activities but it’s important to find the time to do things just for you. This might be your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax. Allowing yourself to figure out what hobbies or activities make us happy can help to boost your mood, lower stress, and build confidence.
It's important to remember, that what works for one person might not work for another and that is ok, there is help and support available. italk is one of Hampshire’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services and is run by Southern Health in collaboration with Solent Mind. It is free to use and you can self-refer yourself.
If you need to talk to someone or would like to find out about how you can get help, please visit our website. Please remember, if you are in a crisis call 111 or visit www.111.nhs.uk and speak to the Mental Health Triage Team. If your condition is life threatening, please call 999.