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Shorter Days and Colder Nights: Wintertime Self Care

By: Casey Harvey, MSW, LSW, The Renfrew Center of Pittsburgh

Posted on December 14, 2020

12.14 blog headerThis year has been hard, and for many people, as the days get shorter and the nights get colder, it's getting tricker. If you find yourself in this boat right now, the good news is you're in good company.

Seasonal affective disorder, characterized by depressive symptoms or worsening of symptoms that coincide with the onset of a particular season, affects at least 10 million Americans, but mild symptoms affect several more.

Seasonal affective disorder affects more women than men, and for people in eating disorder recovery, the winter months can be all the more difficult. Here are some steps you can take to thrive in the winter months:
  1. Find the Light: While bright light therapy has been shown to reduce seasonal affective symptoms, finding the light in your environment has also proven to be helpful! Try a short walk or sitting outside in the morning sun if the weather permits, or exposure to a sunny window after waking up if the weather isn't ideal. Restructuring your living or workspace to have access to a sunlight during the day has also been shown to provide symptom relief.

  2. Plan Ahead: Cognitive therapy is shown to be effective in treating seasonal mood changes. Plan your sessions ahead as much as possible, and practice consistency!

  3. Connection and Community: Remember you're not alone! Reach out to friends and family preemptively and utilize support to stay ahead of changes coming up. Plan virtual events and check-ins to stay active in your circle and create a supportive community.

  4. Get Cozy: With winter comes more time inside. Create a space that feels cozy and safe with some favorite things, textures, and/or colors. If you're really looking to cozy-up, read up on Hygge, the Danish concept of creating a cozy lifestyle!

  5. Mindfulness: Start and keep a mindfulness practice to learn to sit with the current season, rather than the season ahead. And remind yourself that what is, is temporary too!

Casey Harvey, MSW, LSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Renfrew Center of Pittsburgh, PA. She has a master's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to The Renfrew Center, Casey has done both case management and counseling in inpatient psychiatric care with Dual Diagnosis adults and pediatric populations. In her free time, she is typically with her dog Rue, hiking, or doing pyrography.
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