Wellness Wonderland: Tips for Self-Care during the Winter

Written by: Heather Stanley

Image from: Unsplash 

With the winter (and exam!) season upon us, it can be easy for our moods to grow as bitter as the cold. In my opinion, January is the worst month of the year, while for others November or December might be a particularly difficult time. Regardless of what the winter season looks like for you, I think we can all agree that this time of year demands some serious TLC. On that note, I’ve compiled some of my favourite self-care tips to promote good mental and physical health this winter:

1. Maintain a good sleep schedule

Surprise, surprise – sleep is important! To university students, even the concept of a sleep schedule can seem remote. As a night owl, I’m guilty of staying up far later than I know I should…but hypocrisy aside, sticking to a routine when it comes to sleep is vital. The body’s production of melatonin – a hormone that helps us prepare for sleep – is suppressed by sunlight. But during the winter, when it gets dark earlier and the morning light isn’t as bright, our melatonin levels are thrown off. Our bodies want to go to sleep earlier, and it’s harder to wake up. Resisting the temptation to alter your sleep in the winter is key. Avoid bright lights at night (*cough* cellphones *cough*), don’t hit “snooze”, and open a window when you wake up to let the sunlight in.

2. Get fresh air

Going outside can seem counter-intuitive (and much less appealing) when the temperature is below freezing. However, spending time outdoors is just as important in the winter as it is in the warmer months. If you’re feeling sluggish and unmotivated, taking a walk in the brisk air is a great way to boost your energy and refresh your mind. Bonus: getting fresh air during the day will increase your melatonin levels and help you sleep better…it’s all connected!

3. Boost your vitamin intake

We all know that the typical university diet is…lacking in certain respects. But being conscientious about the foods you eat and the nutritional value they carry can help you create a more balanced diet. In the winter months, taking a vitamin D supplement is a good idea since you aren’t receiving as much of it from sunlight. It’s also a mood booster, which is great for fighting the winter blues. It is smart to increase your vitamin C intake during this time of year as well, because it bolsters your immune system. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, leafy greens and bell peppers. Last but not least, vitamin B-12 is especially beneficial during the winter because it helps improve mood and energy levels. It can be found in whole grains, red meats, legumes, and leafy greens.*

4. Enjoy some good comfort drinks

Is there anything more comforting than curling up with a warm beverage in hand when it’s cold outside? While I wouldn’t necessarily suggest making a Starbucks run every day (especially on a student budget!), it’s important to treat yourself to a good comfort drink every now and then. Personally, I enjoy having a mug of tea every night before bed. When it’s been a long day, comfort foods like soup and lasagna are also great. And of course, remember to stay hydrated – carrying a reusable water bottle is an easy way to do this!

5. Exercise regularly

It’s hard to make a list of self-care tips without exercise being one of them, because it is just so integral to overall well-being. This time of year, excuses are easy to make: do the phrases “It’s too cold outside to be active”, or “I’ve got enough to worry about with exams” sound familiar to you? The good news is that there are plenty of ways to be active indoors, and it doesn’t need to take up a lot of your time. Good exercise can be as simple as following along to a yoga video on YouTube, or trying out the badminton courts at the rec centre with friends. Not only does exercise release endorphins – your brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters – but it also gives your brain and body a break from sitting and stressing about work. You’ll likely find that you are actually more productive when you allocate exercise breaks into your routine. It’s a win-win situation.

6. Make time for family and friends

Whether or not you are going home for the holidays, it’s the perfect time to dedicate to catching up with family and friends. Spend some good quality time with your loved ones, whether that means enjoying a good meal together, playing board games, blasting music, going shopping, etc. Schedule FaceTimes or calls with the people you can’t see in person, and take the opportunity this holiday season to reach out to those you haven’t spoken to in a while. A quick check-in can go a long way. In this crazy world, sometimes we just need to take a step back and remember to focus on what’s most important: ourselves and our loved ones.

If you’ve made it to the end, thank you for reading my list of tips! If any of them stood out to you, I encourage you to give them a try. No matter how you’re feeling right now, please know that you are valid and you are loved. Wishing everyone a successful exam season and a wonderful holiday break!

*You should always consult with your doctor (or another healthcare professional) before adding a new vitamin/supplement to your regime


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