October is a great time to start preparing for the colder months. Holidays are also approaching, which can stir up a lot of family wounds. For a lot of people, depression comes full force during the fall and winter months and may even lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). That’s why it’s so important to start preparing now. Here are 13 tips to help you maintain good mental health during this time:



      1. 1. Get Adequate Sunlight and Vitamin D:
            • Vitamin D insufficiency can lead to depression-like symptoms. A significant source of vitamin D is the the sun.
            • Spend time outdoors during daylight hours, even if it’s overcast. Natural light helps regulate your body’s internal clock and improves mood.

            • Consider investing in a light therapy box or lamp that emits full-spectrum light to mimic natural sunlight and help alleviate symptoms of SAD. Use it for about 20-30 minutes each morning to help regulate your body’s internal clock and boost your mood.

            • Consult with a healthcare provider about whether vitamin D supplements might be appropriate for you, especially if you have limited sun exposure.

        2. 2. Stay Active:
              • Regular exercise releases endorphins, which can boost your mood! Try creating a routine (and a back up plan for when the routine is difficult to maintain). 
              • Staying active sends a message to yourself that you care about your holistic health. It’s another form of intimate self-care.

              • Try indoor activities like yoga or deep stretches, dancing, or using a treadmill or stationary bike. You may even consider joining a gym to stay active during the winter months. 

              • Bundle up and take a brisk walk outside when the weather allows.

          2. 3. Maintain a Healthy Diet:
                • “Healthy” is subjective, and there is no such thing as “bad” food. Learn what healthy means for your unique body and try keeping your focus on what nutrients you can GAIN from food rather than what foods you need to RESTRICT. 

                • Maintain a nutrient rich and balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

                • Consume foods rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly those that support mood, such as omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish), vitamin D (found in fortified foods or supplements), and B vitamins (found in whole grains, leafy greens, and lean proteins).

                • Explore ways to learn about food, including what you like, don’t like, or how you can get more of what you like or need. 

                • Consider visiting a nutritionist to learn more about your unique body’s current nutritional needs.

            2. 4. Stay Socially Connected:
                  • Isolation can worsen the winter blues, so make an effort to socialize, even if it’s through video calls or virtual gathering

                  • Join clubs or groups that interest you to combat feelings of isolation.

                  • Avoid leaning on social media for connection. Too much social media use can counteract the benefits of social connection and instead lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

                  • If you feel too connected to social media and are concerned about your consumption, try setting boundaries around time on social media (many devices have a “screen time” feature to help you monitor this).

              2. 5. Practice Relaxation Techniques:
                    • Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques to reduce stress and improve your mental well-being. Mindfulness can also help you stay in the present moment and manage negative thoughts.

                    • Some relaxation methods to try are box breathing, connecting to your senses, relaxation meditation, self-hypnosis, guided imagery or progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety. 

                    • You can also try downloading the Insight timer app which has a lot of free videos and courses.   

                2. 6. Set Achievable Goals:
                      • Avoid overcommitting during the gloomier months, and set realistic and achievable goals for yourself to reduce stress.

                      • Having objectives can give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment, even during the darker months.
                      • Consider setting goals that help you to embrace the season (e.g, going for a nature walk).

                  2. 7. Engage in Creative Outlets and Hobbies:
                        • Pursuing hobbies and interests can provide a positive focus for your mind.
                        • Engage in activities that you enjoy and that bring you a sense of fulfillment, such as art, music, cooking, or crafting. 

                        • Consider hobbies that are seasonal or help you to celebrate fall (e.g, if you decide to bake, you might make sweet potato pie)
                    2. 8. Stay Warm and Cozy:
                          •  Fall can be a great time to start preparing for a warm and cozy environment for winter. A cozy and comfortable environment can help improve your mood.

                          • You may need to do some cleaning and organizing first. 

                          • Some practical ways to keep yourself cozy during the colder months are using blankets, wearing warm clothing (get festive!), trying yummy soup recipes, finding your go-to fall hot drinks, and wood-wick candles.

                      2. 9. Plan Winter Activities:
                            • Look ahead to activities you enjoy during the winter, such as holidays, winter sports, or festive events.

                            • Plan activities like ice skating, snowshoeing, snow tubing, or winter hiking to make the most of the season and provide opportunities for physical activity and enjoyment.

                        2. 10. Practice Self-Compassion
                              • Be kind and understanding to yourself. Don’t judge yourself harshly for feeling down during any part of the holidays or these fall and winter months. You’re not alone–it is a common experience for many people.

                              • Feeling depressed? Here is a reminder: Since doing anything can feel like a big task, honor completion of each thing you do as an accomplishment..8hrs of sleep every 24 hrs, drink plenty of water, and eat a balanced meal(protein, veggie, carb). Keeping it simple is okay. 


                        11. Prioritize Your Basic Needs:



                              • Your fundamental needs (sleep, water, food) require attention the most during stressful times.
                              • Sleep helps regulate mood and is critical for managing symptoms for a variety of mental health challenges.
                              • Dehydration has been linked to depression and lower mental functioning, self-esteem, and energy, so ensure consistent and sufficient water intake.
                              • A regular schedule for sleep, meals, and daily activities can provide structure and stability.

                          1. 12. Stay Informed and Aware:
                                • Educate yourself about SAD and its symptoms. Being aware of what you’re experiencing can help you be proactive in addressing it. 

                                • If you have certain seasonal triggers (e.g., being around relatives), consider talking to a therapist to explore roots, dynamics, and possible strategies. 
                            2. 13. Consult a Healthcare Professional:
                                  • If you’re experiencing severe or persistent symptoms of depression, anxiety, or a general sense of unease,  don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide effective treatment options, such as; therapy, medication, or other non-traditional healing practices, and help you develop a personalized plan to manage your symptoms.



                            Remember that it’s essential to be proactive and consistent in your efforts to combat the hurt, sadness, and/or gloom that can come with holidays and the winter months. Everyone’s experiences with the holidays and their impact on mental and emotional health is unique. What works best for you may vary, so it is okay if you need to try different approaches until you find what helps you feel better. It’s also essential to pay attention to your own needs and seek help if you’re struggling. Our clinicians here at Chill Counseling are trained in stress management and are ready to help.