Advice for Winter Wellness
Read our tips for boosting your health and happiness throughout the winter months.
The colder, darker days of winter can leave us feeling burnt out with a lower mood than usual. The festive period is also a time of year that brings added pressures, particularly around spending money, drinking alcohol, and taking other drugs. These factors can make it difficult to cope, especially if it seems like others are enjoying the festive period from your perspective.
It’s important to remember you are not alone. Many people experience low mood and other challenges during the winter months. Our winter wellness advice is here to help us all boost our health and wellbeing over the festive period and into the New Year.
You can also use the useful phone numbers for help and support below. These services understand how difficult this time of year can be and offer specialist support.
- Get your free flu vaccine
- Get your COVID-19 vaccine or booster
- Keep active
- Keep warm
- Eat well
- Take advantage of sunshine
- Try something new
- Don’t compare yourself to others
- Participate in your local community or social groups
- Connect with other people in similar situations
- Plan ahead to keep things problem free
- Prioritise your financial security
- Talk things through
- Make a realistic resolution
Get your free flu vaccine
Flu is a highly infectious disease which can spread quickly during the winter months. Many people incorrectly believe flu is just a bad cold, but it can be much more serious. Common symptoms of flu include fever, chills, headache, and joint and muscle pain.
People with health conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill when they also have flu.
Many people can get a free flu vaccine. See if you’re eligible and book an appointment on the NHS website.
Get your free COVID-19 vaccine or booster
The roll out of vaccines for COVID-19 provided protection for people against the highly infectious disease. Like with flu, COVID-19 infections can spread quicker during the colder months as people spend more time inside with less ventilation.
You can book seasonal boosters if you are already vaccinated and meet certain criteria. It’s also never too late to get your first or second dose if you have not done so already. Find out more on the NHS website.
We all know exercise is a great way to improve the health of your body and mind. It doesn’t have to be anything too rigorous, either. Try to fit in at least 30 minutes a day of walking, swimming, playing football with friends, gardening, or any other activity you find enjoyable that raises your heart rate and temperature. In turn, this will also help improve your quality and pattern of sleep.
Being cold can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, low mood, and depression. That means staying warm is important to maintain your mental health and wellbeing. If possible, aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (64F and 70F degrees). This will also help to prevent rising damp and mould in your house.
Keeping your home heated can be a challenge during the cost of living crisis. Consider wrapping up in your winter woollies and jumpers. You can find cheap, warm clothing for a reasonable price at many charity shops.
If you cannot afford to heat your home, it is likely there will be a warm welcome space in your local area. These are heated places open to the public which allow you to stay warm. You can search for a warm space near you on the Warm Welcome website.
Be careful with lighting fires and candles if you use alcohol or other drugs. It can be easy to forget to extinguish them, which could be dangerous. Drinking alcohol or using other drugs is not an effective way to keep warm and can increase the risk of hypothermia.
Have a favourite hot drink? There’s nothing like a cup of tea or coffee to warm the cockles of your heart. You could even treat yourself to the occasional hot chocolate or cocoa – just go easy on the cream and marshmallows!
Allow yourself the odd treat, but maintaining a healthy diet is always key to maintaining a healthy mind. A balanced diet gives you more energy and stops your weight from fluctuating. Ensure you balance your cravings for carbohydrates – such as pasta and potatoes – with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
You can still cook healthy, hearty meals on a budget. Check out this list of budget recipes by leading chefs.
There is no shame in accessing support from a foodbank if you require free food. If you need to support to acquire food, search for a foodbank in your area.
Take advantage of sunshine
Many people take Vitamin D supplements and may use a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamp during winter, but a daily walk in the middle of the day can also be highly beneficial. Even on cloudy days, getting out before it goes dark can help with your intake of Vitamin D and subsequently your overall happiness.
Try something new
Keep your mind active with a new interest or hobby. It could be anything, like playing games, singing, learning an instrument, knitting, crocheting, joining a gym, or keeping a diary. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on. If you enjoy gardening or keeping house plants, you can still maintain this hobby during the winter months.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Unrealistic media and advertisements featuring other people’s festive celebrations can drain your positivity. Remember that people only show a snapshot of their lives on social media. It’s usually a glamourised version.
Be realistic about your own expectations. Make plans for how you will spend the time over the festive period. Build time in for yourself to treat yourself, whether it be with a new hobby or going out for a nice meal.
Participate in your local community or social groups
The festive period can be a time of increased loneliness and isolation. Many organisations offer support at this time and finding out what is available in your local area may be helpful. Local libraries, community centres, social media and newspapers are good sources of information.
Volunteering is one good way of reducing loneliness and having a sense of purpose if you would otherwise be spending the festive period alone. Try to connect with local groups and worthwhile community initiatives.
If you can spare it, even something as simple as donating any excess food or clothes you have can fill you with a sense of purpose.
Connect with other people in similar situations
Don’t allow your normal routines to be pushed out of place. Try to go to your regular support groups such as SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training), NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) over the holiday period for support.
You could even consider going to extra meetings if you feel it’s necessary. It’s been shown that socialising is good for your mental health. People are social animals, after all.
Try to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while. Do try to avoid triggering social situations or people, where you may be tempted to drink or use drugs.
Plan ahead to keep things problem free
Think about what people or situations may trigger negative feelings or behaviours and figure out ways to avoid them. If going to a New Year’s Eve party might be a trigger, consider stopping by on New Year’s Day to see the same people instead.
Try to avoid people or places that may bring back memories of unhappy experiences or cause you to think about using alcohol or other drugs. If you are unable to avoid these, think about making a plan ahead of time to cope with them. Your key worker at our services can help you with this.
Prioritise your financial security
Over the festive period, it can often be tempting to splurge. Of course, it’s nice to buy worthwhile gifts for our friends and loved ones, but you don’t need to go overboard with expensive presents to show someone how much they mean to you.
Why not create your own greetings cards or spend some time learning to knit someone a woolly hat or scarf? Effort means so much more than expense. You can also agree a budget with people for exchanging gifts.
If you are struggling to buy gifts for loved ones, like your children, consider having an honest discussion with them about what you can afford as a family. If your children are younger, gifts don’t need to be expensive to excite them. If your children are older, they are likely to understand reasons why you can’t buy them expensive gifts.
Talk things through
Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy, or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms of low mood, anxiety, and depression. See your GP for information on what’s available locally. Sometimes even just picking up the phone to connect with a friend or family member can change your whole outlook on a day.
Make a realistic resolution
The New Year doesn’t have to mean a totally new you and many people place unrealistic expectations on themselves. As we move into 2023, it’s better to set yourself a realistic resolution, such as cutting down on unhealthy food and drink, rather than attempting to be something other than yourself. Try to reflect positively on some of the things you have achieved already in 2022 and plan to build on them next year.
If you are considering using harm reduction tools like Dry January, remember that stopping drinking alcohol suddenly can be dangerous for heavy drinkers. Get in touch with one of our local services for free and confidential advice if you want to reduce your drug or alcohol use.
USEFUL PHONE NUMBERS
- North Yorkshire Horizons offer free and confidential support for drug and alcohol use. Get Help
Open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday; closed weekends and public holidays.
- Samaritans (open 24 hours every day): 08457 909090
- Sane mental health helpline (open between 4:30pm and 10:30pm every evening): 0300 3047000
- The Trussell Trust (open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, closed on public holidays – a network, giving emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK): 01722 580171
- Papyrus HopelineUK (a confidential support and advice service for young people under the age of 35 who may be having thoughts of suicide): 0800 068 4141
- CALM (support to men in the UK, of any age, who are feeling down or in crisis): 0800 585858
- Money Advice Trust’s National Debtline (a debt advice charity run by the Money Advice Trust offering a free and confidential debt advice service): 0808 808 4000