Self-care for During the Winter Blues

Martha Price lists her top self-care tips for combatting those sad winter feels. 

It’s getting to that time of year again when you can’t help but slow down even when everything else seems to be speeding up, with countless deadlines and end of term events piling up the pressure. The days feel shorter but somehow you find yourself with more to do within them, and having to live in a student house that matches the temperature outside is far from comforting. It can feel impossible not to become less motivated, less yourself and maybe just ‘less’ generally. Even with the sparkly charm of Christmas following us everywhere we go, it can be hard to feel as bright as those lights.

Despite the feeling of hopelessness shared between a lot of us this time of year, there is an abundance of ways to beat the ‘winter blues’ just one Google search away. It’s hard to avoid risking repetition with this one, but maybe the suggestions that always come up have some real value in them. This is more of a reminder than anything ground-breaking, but hopefully, this is the winter where we do take better care of ourselves, in whatever form that may take.

Self-care doesn’t always come naturally to everyone, myself included, but it doesn’t have to be extravagant or unfeasibly indulgent. Trying to create and nurture habits of self-care customised to ourselves, however challenging, will not be a waste of effort.

Here are some starting points:

1) Exercise – age-old advice but it does really help to boost energy levels and general happiness. But the thought of going on that dark, cold, early morning run, justifiably, won’t appeal to many. Trying something different can make exercise at this time of year seem less of a chore. The SU offers loads of fun classes, with something for everyone. At home, workouts can be fun too, especially with a flatmate and some tunes (I highly recommend ABBA). Equally though, knowing when not to exercise or when you need a break is also self-care.

2) Healthy eating – again, age-old advice but it also helps. Cooking and eating a nourishing meal is such a good way to look after yourself. Absolutely make the most out of Christmas chocolate, but find a way to get in some fruit and veg as well. Delicious seasonal recipes are easy to find and ingredients can be super cheap. Making it with someone else can spread the cost and the benefits as well.

3) Accepting the slow-down – fewer daylight hours make it easy to feel worn out. At the end of the year we seem to have busier schedules, but also feel like we need 100x more sleep. Allow yourself and your schedule to adapt slightly so that you make the most of the sun and slow down when it gets dark, otherwise nights in the library quickly start to feel endless and you miss out on the extra sleep we naturally need.

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4) The classics – face masks, nails, reading, films: cliche, but all tiny simple acts of self-care that can help us focus on something else for a little bit of time and hopefully aid us in some well-deserved relaxation. Start a ‘book club’ with any pals that like reading if that’s your thing and opt for books with positive messages. Or set up cosy film nights so that you can spend time with people without it being too overwhelming.

5) Embrace the festivities – whether or not you think it’s too early, festivities in Bristol are undeniably pretty. Tour the Christmas markets in Cabot and the Harbourside, the pop-up Etsy shop in Broadmead, or Bath if you have time to go further out. They can be a reminder that winter isn’t all bad.

6) Swap the alcohol for hot chocolate – yes, all the Christmas formals and end of term celebratory nights out can be fun, but sometimes the alcohol makes the winter blues worse. Swapping that cocktail or pub night for a hot chocolate date every once in a while can help. My flatmate and I have a ‘hot chocolate Tuesday’ tradition going on and we are slowly making our way around Bristol’s many cafes. We love the Pinkmans vegan option if we are in extra need of a treat, but we’re fans of pretty much anywhere offering that nice hug in liquid form.

7) Being outside – whilst the cold makes it so tempting to stay under those layers of blankets, fluffy socks AND slippers, it’s so important to see the outside too. Venture over to the Suspension Bridge, or carry on to Ashton Court if you like walking, and take in the fresh air. Apparently talking about things whilst walking can be easier and more therapeutic so take a friend too and go for a hot drink afterwards to warm back up.

8) Plan something for after winter – planning something for after winter or maybe after January exams can help keep you going, and looking forward to something with the excitement of summer will help us get past the seasonal blues. Plus, scrolling through pretty European city breaks is a very valid form of procrastination.

Last, but absolutely by no means least, knowing that it’s okay if the above things aren’t going to be enough. Winter, like any season really, can be difficult in so many ways and there’s no shame in accessing help services when things aren’t right.

Illustration by Ruby Rowan Gleeson. 

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