The dreary, cold days seem to weigh you down. The feelings of being “stuck” in the house for hours upon hours with your kiddos never seem to end. The days feel longer than they’ve ever been, and you barely have the energy to drag yourself through them.
You’re not alone, mama. The colder seasons are known to bring about what we know as the infamous winter blues. And as much as I’ve tried to figure out how to beat the winter blues, sometimes it’s easier said than done.
Seasonal affective disorder is a real thing, and mine has always been triggered by the onset of darker days and longer nights. Now that I’m a mom, it has taken a toll on my mental, physical and emotional health twofold. Because the routines that I have established with my child during the warmer seasons—such as daily walks or playdates at the park—are put on pause, the feelings of sadness and loneliness seep in in overwhelming amounts.
The colder seasons contribute to my lack of productivity, an increase in weariness and feelings of ongoing isolation—especially as a working stay-at-home mom (cue double the winter blues).
I had the opportunity to speak with motherhood therapist Chelsea Robinson, MSW, LCSW, about seasonal affective disorder within moms and how mamas struggling with the winter blues can take care of their mental health and be intentional with their productivity during the winter season.
“Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression characterized by a seasonal pattern, typically lasting four to five months. The winter pattern worsens in the late fall/early winter and lessens in the early spring. It typically includes symptoms associated with Major depressive disorder and includes additional symptoms such as weight gain, overeating, oversleeping and a withdrawal from social engagements. Basically, when the days get shorter and it gets darker earlier, the skies become more gray and it gets colder outside, a person’s mood might reflect these changes in ways that prevent them from feeling fulfilled and engaged like they do in the spring and summer months.”
Related: 19 ways to feel happier this winter
“Feeling stuck inside the home with little ones all winter long can take its toll on a mom’s mental health. The pressure to be creative and come up with new activities to keep your little ones engaged and busy, monitor screen time and ensure enriching socio-emotional learning opportunities can feel super intense and leave a mom feeling inadequate, bored and drained—cue mom burn-out.”
Robinson went on to share how the decrease in social activities can also be a component in moms dealing with the winter blues.
“The lack of social engagement during the colder months can take its toll too, leaving a mom feeling lonely and isolated, which can contribute to sadness, a lack of motivation and possible depression. When you are feeling this way and it’s only, say, mid-November, knowing you have three to four more months of the same thing every single day can feel extremely hopeless and daunting.”
As dreary and discouraging as the winter blues may sound, there are ways to ensure that you are taking care of yourself, mama. Robinson shared some Seasonal affective disorder self care tips for the mamas wondering how to beat the winter blues and feel their best.
4 tips on how to beat the winter blues
1. Change your routine to fit the season
“Routine is so important, even if it needs to change from what it looked like during the summer months, it is important to create a new fall and winter routine. Can you keep the same sleep schedule for yourself and nap schedule for your little one? Can you continue with simple rituals that brought you joy in the summer (ie. journaling, mindful moments, etc.)?”
“And if you feel safe to continue keeping social activities up, do it! What library classes are there? What indoor social activities can you sign yourself and your little one up for? If you have a partner or support (ie. childcare, family in the area), schedule some time for yourself whenever you can. Reconnecting with yourself during these darker months can help to fill your cup, too. So take 30 minutes for ‘you’ time when you can.”
2. Adjust your expectations
“Adjust your expectations, mama. What you can ‘do’ and ‘achieve’ during the summer does look different than what you can ‘do’ in the winter. That’s a fact. So lower the expectations you have of yourself as you prepare for the upcoming season changes. And then plan for what might look different for you.”
“Get intentional about your routine, have things to look forward to and remember that you (and your entire self) matters—not just your little ones. When we act from a place of reactivity, we can feel out-of-control in life, yet when we plan or are intentional and thoughtful about upcoming changes, we tend to feel more in control of our situation. Lead with that.”
3. Live in alignment with the seasons
“There is something to be said for the idea of seasonal living or living in alignment with the seasons. Fall and winter are times of turning inwards, self reflection, coziness and snuggles. It’s time to cook up some new stews, family recipes and take on a new hobby like croissant baking.”
“It’s time to turn your home into a cozy haven (think “hygge”) and create spaces in your home that you look forward to re-charging in, snuggling with a blanket in or reading a good book in. Involve your little ones in this process. Show them what ‘slowing down’ means. Cuddle with them, read extra books, sit by candle light and invite them to help you cook up a new soup.”
During the colder seasons, I’ve full-fledged started taking advantage of the holidays. My newfound hobbies are decorating my home for the season, and an activity that my little one and I can indulge in together is shopping for the decorations. I go all out for Thanksgiving and Christmas, welcoming the festivities with open arms so that I am constantly in the midst of family, joy and love.
4. Make an effort to get out of the house
“In addition, although playing outside might not be as possible or enjoyable in the colder days, getting outside (if even for a little bit) can be so rejuvenating and have positive implications for your mental health.” Robinson shared.
Even on the colder days, you can still make an effort to get out of the house so that you aren’t sulking in the winter blues. Maybe it’s a grocery store run, going to spend the day at your parent’s house or taking your kiddo to the library. Now is your time to explore new places within your community—and build new traditions.
There is no one and done way on how to beat the winter blues, but these tips are surely a good start for boosting your mood, mama. You’ve got this—and we’ve got you!
Chelsea Robinson, MSW, LCSW, is a Mom, Motherhood therapist, Matrescence Coach, Postpartum Doula and Village Builder. She is also the founder of Mama’s Modern Village.