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Dear Charlie: How Can I Prepare for the Winter Blues?

Dear Charlie is an advice column that allows readers to ask Charlie for guidance on how to deal with problems. Whether it’s about love, friendships, or frustrations, Charlie is here to give you tips and ideas for tackling life’s everyday challenges. Readers can ask Charlie for advice through DM via our Instagram @liubknews, or anonymously through this form.


*Disclaimer: Responses to Dear Charlie do not provide medical advice. All content in this article, including, but not limited to text, images, graphics, and other material on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended or implied to be taken instead of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you’ve taken a walk outside recently, or even glanced at your calendar, it is likely that you would notice that winter is right around the corner.

From now until November 6, the clock is ticking until Daylight Savings Time ends, the sun starts to set at 4:30 p.m., and the weather becomes unbearably cold. Winter can be an incredibly tough time for many, as the days get shorter, we spend less time outside, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more widely known as “seasonal depression” can begin to set in.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, SAD happens when people go through periods of time where their mood changes and they feel down. Thisoften occurs in accordance to when the days become shorter in the fall and winter. For most people SAD symptoms begin in the late fall or early winter and go away during the spring or summer.

If you suffer from SAD or simply are dreading the cold, dark days ahead, here are some tips that can help get you through this upcoming winter:

1. Layer up

As the wind picks up, our lips get chapped, and we can no longer feel our extremities, it is important to remember to layer up before you head out the door! Keeping warm is integral to staying healthy as drops in temperature can affect our body’s ability to fight off viruses and infections. Getting sick never feels good and would only make an already dreaded winter season worse. So layer up with long sleeves and sweaters to stay warm and healthy!

2. Endorphins make you happy

In the wise words of Elle Woods, “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy!” Exercising not only reduces levels of stress hormones in your body such as adrenaline and cortisol, but it also stimulates the production of endorphins which elevate our mood. While going on runs or walks outside can become difficult as the weather becomes colder, other options such as yoga, lifting weights, pilates, going to the gym, or simply following an online workout tutorial are great alternatives to get you moving and happy.

3. Get as much sunlight as possible

Our bodies create vitamin D from sunlight exposure and vitamin D deficiency can be a risk factor for depressive symptoms. When the sun is out this winter, bundle up and go on a stroll to take advantage of what little sunlight there is. While sunny days may be scarce during the winter, another way for your body to produce vitamin D is through artificial sunlight: vitamin D lamps emit UVB light, mimicking real sunlight and in turn, help your body to produce vitamin D. Another way for our bodies to have enough vitamin D during the winter is to consume foods that are rich in vitamin D including, salmon, tuna fish, orange juice fortified with vitamin D, sardines, and egg yolks.

4. Be social!

Avoid long stretches of time being alone this winter and prioritize being socially active. While this can be difficult, it is important to spend time with others as long periods of isolation have been found to have a negative psychological impact on people. While alone time is not necessarily detrimental, remember to limit periods where you are by yourself and allot time to spend with loved ones. This can include going on a walk with friends, grabbing coffee with classmates, or even just sitting and talking with others.

5. Create a schedule and stick to it

With the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer, your sleep schedule may change and you may even find sleeping at night or getting up in the morning a little more difficult than usual. Maintaining a schedule can improve your sleep and expose you to light at more consistent intervals. This will help you to keep your circadian rhythm in check, a factor that is important for your sleep-wake schedule.

6. Make the most out of winter

The freezing weather can have its benefits! Whether it’s seeing the color-changing leaves in Prospect Park, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, or playing in the snow after a snow storm, it is important to make the most out of the changing seasons and look at the bright side. While nature can be harsh at times, it can also have its advantages — and to make the cold more tolerable, it can be helpful to focus on the beauty that nature brings.

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