The darker months of winter can be tough, especially for sufferers of anxiety. Not enough time outdoors, more stress at work, colder commutes and passing illnesses – all of it adds up to a bad time indeed. For those who struggle with stress and anxiety, a bit of extra time spent focusing on wellbeing and self-care can make all the difference. Here’s a few little things you can add to your routine that might clear a clouded mind.
Especially in the colder months, it’s easy to spend all your time snuggled up on the couch. And why wouldn’t you?! It’s the best way to spend a cold winter’s day. However, there can be too much of a good thing: if you spend too much time snuggling, and not enough moving, your headspace can suffer. Studies show that exercise has been compared favorably to anti-anxiety medications, so make sure you’re getting the blood pumping a few times a week. Just choose a gym or exercise studio that has decent heating. Bikram yoga, anyone?
- Box breathing
There’s plenty of breathing and stretching exercises splashed across the internet for stress-sufferers. But that’s because deep breathing is one of the most sufficient techniques to help calm an anxious mind. Try this one: think of a box with four sides. As you breathe in, draw the box in your mind (as you count to four), and trace the box again as you breathe out for another count of four. Continue drawing the box in your mind, and taking deep breaths, until you feel the weight lift off your shoulders.
It may seem a little too simple, but hydration is so very important for your body to function – and that includes your brain. Our water intake levels tend to drop in winter, and when you combine that with spending a lot of time in front of the heater: it’s easy to forget about your eight glasses a day (and no, eight glasses of red wine does not count). If your mind is feeling sluggish, give it a good waterin’ and see if it helps.
- Salt therapy
Your overall health is important for your state of mind, and a few sessions of salt therapy can do wonders for both. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of the pharmaceutical-grade salt pumped through the air of the salt rooms can bring relief to a number of immune, skin, lung, and circulatory functions. Healthy body = healthy mind. Plus, sitting in one of the comfortable massage chairs of a peaceful room has the added bonus of a perfect meditation opportunity: all you have to do is close your eyes and breathe deeply.
- Dark chocolate
As if you needed permission to eat some dark chocolate. It’s winter. Eat as much as you want. But while you eat it, know this: dark chocolate contains flavanols, a type of antioxidant that improves blood flow to the brain, and may help promote its ability to adapt to stress including anxiety and other mood disorders. Say whaaat? A study showed that a group of individuals who ate dark chocolate twice a day for a fortnight ended up with lower levels of cortisol (the stress and anxiety hormone) than those who got no chocolate. What more proof do you need? Pass me the block, please. All in moderation through.
Most importantly, make sure you’re getting the help you need, whether it’s from a doctor, an organisation like Beyond Blue, or just from your loved ones. Keep warm, keep moving, keep hydrated, get a bit salty and chocolatey, and take a deep breath.
Look after yourself. We’ve only got one of you.