Fed up? Struggling to get out of bed? Writer Faima Bakar explores how we can navigate the generally miserable atmosphere right now – by concentrating on our own wellbeing.
This week, temperatures reached freezing for the first time in ages. If the increasingly dark mornings weren’t enough, that – surely – is confirmation that we’re inching ever closer to winter. And since Monday morning, I’ve struggled to get out of bed. The reluctance to get up isn’t just because my home is freezing cold; it’s largely due to despair.
Everything feels bleak right now – the weather is getting colder, the days are shorter and the cost of living crisis looms. With the rise in inflation, my household bills are going up and my landlord has just alerted us that our rent will also be rising soon (even though the boiler is bust, the oven is on the brink and it’s extremely cold in the property). Unfortunately, many others will be in the same boat.
You’d be forgiven if this left you feeling low, uninspired and retreating into yourself. In some cases, this can be a sign of seasonal affective disorder (SAD); in mine, it’s definitely linked to the stresses of 2022 life.
If you’re struggling to keep your mood and energy up right now, know you’re not alone. If you know that you struggle with depression, then see your GP about what options are available to; if you know it’s circumstantial, then try the following self-care tips for brightening your day.
Boost your energy with light
The NHS says the reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days may be a factor in causing SAD. The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the production of chemicals such as serotonin (the hormone that affects your mood and appetite).
The NHS recommends changing a few lifestyle measures and getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels. It also recommends light therapy – where a special lamp called a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight.
Acknowledge you’re struggling with stress and/or anxiety
Natasha Silverman, a therapist at counselling service Relate, says these low moods are being reported by her clients. She tells Stylist: “My clients are reporting feeling ‘flat’ as the days become gloomier and shorter, and that’s no surprise. I’m seeing an increase in stress and worry about finances, as the cost of living crisis really starts to bite.”
So begin by acknowledging that you’re feeling this way. She says: “It’s important to keep hold of the fact that we all have times when we feel more ‘flat’ than usual: be kind to yourself, and give yourself permission to acknowledge when you’re struggling so that you can take care of your mood and mental health as best you can.
Try to prioritise eating nourishing foods
It’s no secret that what we eat affects how we feel. When you’re feeling low, it’s easy and normal to want to reach for comfort foods. But try not to lean too much into this, and make sure you’re still getting all the nutrients you need, particularly things that will give you energy such as high-protein snacks and energy-boosting meals.
Silverman explains: “When we’re feeling tired and low, we can lack the motivation and energy to care for ourselves as well as we usually do. Try and make eating well a priority, and resist the temptation to reach for easy snacks that perpetuate our low energy levels.”
Move as much as possible, even if it’s only a quick stretch
You just have to look around the Strong Women series to know the benefits of fitness. No one’s lying when they say exercise boosts mood because of all the endorphins it shoots out.
Silverman continues: “Incorporating exercise into your day when possible (even if it’s just a stroll around the block) is also a great, low-cost way of caring for your mind and body, and it maximises the amount of sunlight you can obtain.”
Treat yourself with non-monetary rewards
Treating ourselves is one of the mainstays of self-care and very easy to do… but it can become a problem if you do it too much (especially if you’re struggling financially). Thanks to capitalism, many of us end up spending money to make ourselves feel better, but this doesn’t always have to be monetary, says Silverman.
“I always ask clients to think about what brings them joy in life, and how they can try to incorporate these things into their lives. For some, it might be a cuddle with a pet, a chat with a friend over a coffee, a good TV show with their partner.”
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Schedule in some midweek fun
Routine and sameness can add to the drudgeries of everyday life, so why not break up your week and plan some fun in the middle of it? There’s so much pressure on the weekend, but it’s only two days. How are you meant to do life admin, see loved ones, do your hobbies, and also relax in such a short time?
So, scheduling some of your weekend activity fun for a Wednesday might be the refresher you need.
Monika Franke, a qualified counselor, pilates and breathing instructor, says this is especially helpful when you’re feeling low. “Connection and laughter are such great healers. And breaking up the week can reinvigorate your intentions towards the things you love in life.
“Remind yourself that joy and thriving are our purpose in life. We’re not supposed to live to only survive. So engage and deliberately seek out the things that give you hope, joy, purpose and smiles.”
Try a new workout
Do you have go-to workouts that you could do with your eyes closed? The amazing thing about fitness is there’s so much variety – so you don’t need to be wedded to your gym routine.
Setting yourself a new challenge, whether that’s running 5k, joining a pilates class or even training a different part of your body, will add some exciting fitness goals.
Go outside at least once a day
Yes, you could get a sun lamp, but nothing beats the real thing, so make a habit of going outside and enjoying whatever sun you can get. The benefits of going on a walk really can’t be understated.
Do all or some of these things, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to get out of bed in the morning. Some will definitely come easier than others.
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