Prioritizing Mental Health and Healing During the Winter Season

Prioritizing Mental Health and Healing During the Winter Season

This week I am interviewing a licensed psychologist and leadership coach to discuss the topic of mental health for first-gen students and professionals. That podcast episode will be released later this month (feel free to subscribe, if you haven’t already). But it has had me thinking about the topic of mental health especially now as the season has changed, which for some of us can trigger seasonal affective disorder. Some of us might struggle with our energy levels due to the time change. Some of us might not easily adjust to having less daylight. And with the holiday season practically here, some of us might get triggered due to not having family to come home to, or having to navigate dysfunctional family dynamics, or perhaps dealing with the familial and often gendered pressure to do it all. These changes in season, in our routine, and often in our physical health due to the cold and flu season, can also negatively impact our mental health.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share three things that I’m doing to prioritize my mental health and healing this time of year:

1. I am writing for personal development and healing. Aside from working on my Grad School Femtoring projects, I am doing a good amount of journaling. I mentioned to my therapist last week that ever since I was a child, I’ve relied on writing during some very difficult moments. Writing, especially journaling, is a form of self-soothing and coping mechanism that helps me process my emotions. But now the difference is that I am being more intentional about also writing during happy and hopeful moments. Including moments to briefly archive my joy, the things that I’m grateful for, and the things that I’m looking forward to (my dreams and goals) is helping me with managing my mental health.

If you haven’t done this before, I’d like to encourage you to start journaling and writing for healing. It can be uncomfortable if you’ve grown accustomed to writing solely for academic reasons. But it can also help you to think and process some of the challenges you may be experiencing this time of year.

2. I am also maintaining some predictability and routine despite the chaos of the fall season. My family and I, we have been sick on and off for over two months now. I’m tired of dealing with cold and flu symptoms, especially viral infections, but I also acknowledge that this is temporary and will eventually pass. And even if we continue getting sick often (thanks to daycare germs), we can still have a sense of routine even while sick, even while making plans with others, and even while maintaining the traditions that come with the holiday season. My routine involves morning coffee, getting ready while listening to a podcast or audiobook, checking in with my husband, working on GSF-related tasks and attending meetings, leaving the house for a short walk or errand, calling my mamá and/or a friend, and spending quality time with my kids. If too many of these things get thrown off, I start to feel it and I reassess what needs to happen to get back into a routine.

In your life, can you identify your own routines and daily rituals that you can maintain even during an especially busy season?

3. Another thing I’m doing to manage my mental health is slowing down, delegating, and saying no to areas of my life where I can do that. I’m doing this to have more time to tend to my personal needs, that is, my physical, mental, and spiritual needs, because each impact one another. I like to do this year round, as needed, but it’s especially relevant during this time of year. Yes, this means I’ve taken a step back from social media. I have had to replay an older episode of my podcast here and there. And I’ve had family over to visit and had to shift our plans when I wasn’t feeling my best. Those are examples of me honoring my body and not giving into external pressures to be doing more just because “it’s the season.” Instead of being super busy, I am resting, I am writing, and I am nourishing myself.

How are you able to slow down during this very busy season? What things can you say no to right now that will allow you to make room for prioritizing yourself?

I’d like to leave you with one last note, which is something I learned from listening to the Mel Robbins Podcast. In her episode on how to heal from anxiety, she interviewed a physician and neuroscientist who shared some strategies for healing anxiety. The biggest takeaway I gathered from that episode is that anxiety, at it’s root, is a form of separation anxiety, which can be linked to a separation from yourself and/or a separation from your parents. As such, in making time for yourself, reassuring yourself, giving yourself kindness, love, and attention, the way you would to a child, you are actually making time for your own healing.

I know that you probably have a million things going on in your life right now. I know you may feel exhausted and overwhelmed. And yet, I hope that you will find time for yourself. Because you deserve it.

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