5 Mental Health Tips for Surviving Michigan’s Winter Season
It feels like ages since we've seen the sun in Southwest Michigan.
Naturally, I can't find it now, but I saw a social media post from a local meteorologist that said it had been at least 14 days since we, in SW Michigan, had seen the sun. I don't care how mentally "strong" you are. Being under cloud cover for that long has an effect on both your mind and body.
The good news? The sun will eventually come back, even if it's just peeking through the clouds.
Until then, it would be perfectly understandable and reasonable if you've been struggling with your mental health. Maybe you've been sleeping more. Perhaps you've been feeling hopeless. Perhaps you've been feeling depressed. Speaking from personal experience, the sun disappearing behind the clouds is just the latest hurdle to overcome. And, please, let this be a reminder that you are not alone.
If you're looking for a few ways to maintain or help your mental health during the cold and often cloudy months in Michigan, here are at least 5 tips:
Before we get started, I will say that these tips might feel generic, and, perhaps, you've seen them before. But, they do work. Even if they're annoying.
1. Get Outside and Exercise
I know. This is what everyone says. But, it really does help. Even if you're avoiding the outdoors due to snowfall or low temps, finding a way to get your body moving helps your mental health. Personally, I commit to doing at least 20 minutes of movement a day (something recommended to me by my therapist). Sometimes it's yoga. Sometimes, it's just taking a walk.
Yes, it's annoying. Yes, it works.
Want to explore the local preserves? Here are at least 7 you can check out year-round. Be prepared with heavy hiking boots or snow shoes should you visit in the winter:
2. Stay Connected With People
This one is easier said than done.
As adults, our lives get very busy. And, if you live far away from your friends, finding a way to connect can be difficult. But, we live in the age of Facetime, Zoom, and other video chat apps. Take advantage of them and reach out to your friends or family that you're missing. Even a ten-minute conversation can remind you that you are loved and you are supported.
3. Maintain Appointments for Overall Health
Again, I'm speaking from personal experience but, when you're finding it hard to get out of bed keeping appointments like an annual physical, a dental appointment, and beyond becomes increasingly difficult. But, future you will thank you for maintaining those appointments.
Plus, your doctor might have some recommendations to help you get through the Winter.
4. Try Light Therapy
According to the Mayo Clinic, a light box could help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, they recommended talking to your doctor about it first. If you're shopping for a light box to help with depression, the Mayo Clinic also notes that the box should provide as little UV light as possible while also providing 10,000 lux of light.
Learn more below:
5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT might sound complicated. But, in reality, it involves a couple of simple to-dos to help your mental health.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of treatment to help people identify patterns of thought that have a negative influence on thoughts or behavior and then change those patterns. Would it be better to go through this with a therapist? Probably. But, since there are people who cannot afford therapy, a few things you can try are:
- Journaling. Getting all of your thoughts out on paper can be a useful way to reframe them or have a better understanding of them
- Relaxation or Stress Reduction Techniques. This includes things like deep breathing, meditation, and taking a moment to relax all of the muscles in your body.
Again, I know these tips might be repetitive but, I've found that simple, baby steps toward helping my own mental health really prove successful in the long run.
You can find even more tips for helping your mental health through winter from lifespan.org.
If you're able to, I highly encourage you to find a therapist that can help with even minor mental health struggles. It's like a tune-up. Your car needs one. Your body needs one. Your mind needs one, too.
*If you are struggling and need immediate help, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 988.*