This is an updated “New Year” version of an article I wrote in December for the MSU All Staff Council Newsletter. I wanted to share it with everyone, as it remains a relevant topic post-Holiday.

The Holidays and New Years are a time of joy and festivities, but if you struggle with extra stress, anxiety, or depression during this time or winter in general, you are not alone.  There are many factors that can snowball to take a toll on our mental health this time of year—cold, dark days; work stress; extra family responsibilities; and navigating hectic schedules can easily accumulate to the point where we feel overwhelmed and less than merry.    

Luckily, there are many ways to proactively boost our mental well-being during the winter season.  Here are five suggestions to get started.  As you examine this list, look for low hanging fruit–one or two key areas that you could easily incorporate today to make a big impact on your mood and stress levels.

  1. Any exercise is great for stress mitigation and as a mood booster, but if you can get outside for some exercise in the daylight or sunshine, that’s even better!  Even a few minutes of light exercise (no pun intended) can make a big difference in how you feel.
  2. Speaking of daylight–how’s your Vitamin D level?  At this latitude in the winter, it’s all but impossible for our skin to produce enough Vitamin D for us to thrive, so we must take it in through nutrition or supplementation.  Our annual Wellchecks include Vitamin D tests, so if you went this past fall, check your levels, and consider supplementation if they were low.  600 IU is the recommended daily amount for adults. 
  3. Get good sleep!  Consistent, quality sleep is foundational for our mood and energy levels.  Discipline yourself to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, especially this time of year!  Also, try creating a better sleep environment in your bedroom by making sure there are no audio or visual electronic distractions, and try to refrain from screen-time at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
  4. It’s common to hit the sweets and take in some extra calories over the Holidays.  If you feel like you overindulged a bit, don’t fret.  January is a great time to get back into the routine of your normal diet.  This month, set a goal to stay consistent with your regular diet, keep yourself well hydrated, and consider limiting alcohol intake as well, especially if you’re feeling anxious or down.  Alcohol tends to “boost” the mood you’re already in, so if you’re feeling blue, lay off the booze. 
  5. Connect with others and don’t forget to do nice things for yourself!  Healthy social connections help us cope during periods of higher stress, so book that date with your best-friend and talk it out!  Also, the New Year is a time when many of us take some time to plan and calendar, so make sure to create the time and space for the things you enjoy doing most.  Schedule that important you-time or family-time, get it on the calendar, and go have some fun!

Incorporating daily healthy habits to improve your mental health is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your family to begin the New Year! If you participate in our MUS Wellness online incentive program you can customize a list of daily habits you’d like to accomplish and start tracking them.

Happy New Year from MUS Wellness!  Be Well!

Looking for more tips and help with mental health or overall wellbeing?  Here are some extra resources to dive into:

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