7 Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

The "winter blues" is not a medical diagnosis, but something almost everyone feels at some point amid the dark, damp, and freezing days of the season—veterinarians included. The winter blues do not, and should not, affect your ability to enjoy your life. Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), on the other hand, is a recognized form of clinical depression that can cause difficulty concentrating, poor motivation, extreme fatigue, and weight gain from stress eating. Acknowledging the issue and reaching out for help are the first steps to prioritizing well-being in the workplace.

7 Ways to Practice Self-Care and Beat the Winter Blues

Whether it's the blues or something more serious, it's important to seek professional medical help if needed. Still, there are helpful practices and resources you can use at home or on the job to minimize symptoms and improve your life at the same time.

1. Turn on Light Therapy

Therapy lights can do wonders for those suffering from the winter blues and SAD, and they're recommended by mental health experts. The best way to do it is to spend 30 minutes in front of the light first thing in the morning, perhaps in addition to other self-care strategies, such as yoga or meditation. Combining the power of light therapy with centering self-care can make a significant difference in mood and energy levels.

2. Start Exercising...Even in Winter

If you're struggling to manage your mood and moving only a fraction as much as you do in the warmer months, try incorporating 30 minutes of exercise into your routine at least three times a week. Even though it's cold outside and winter weather may present challenges, it's still important to move your body. Even 30 minutes of low-impact cardio improves mood and mental functioning. Start with brisk walks, maybe with some friends or colleagues from your veterinary practice, and let the fresh air and sunlight lift your mood, boost energy, improve sleep quality, and reduce stress.

3. Upgrade Nutrition

A healthy diet can foster a better feeling of well-being, physically and mentally. Although carbs and fatty foods may make us feel good for a moment, they do nothing to support our health in the long run; in fact, they can harm it. So, if you're feeling blue, look at what you're eating and drinking and take steps to change the equation. Make changes slowly, though, and set achievable goals like adding more vegetables to your daily meals. And don't beat yourself up, or give up entirely, if you fall off the wagon.

4. Increase Vitamin D

Many people suffer from excessively low levels of vitamin D during the winter because they simply don't get enough sunshine on their skin. If you're a hardworking veterinarian who spends a lot of time indoors at the practice, you may be low in vitamin D. One of the common symptoms is fatigue, which can inevitably impact both your personal and professional life. Consider adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet. Be sure to discuss it with your doctor before you do. They may even suggest testing for vitamin D and other nutrient levels.

5. Limit Screen Time

Too much time in front of screens can cause fatigue, decrease mood, and increase distractibility. If you're suffering from a low winter mood, try to limit your screen time to two hours or less per day. Consider setting a timer or downloading apps to your phone or tablet that track time online.

6. Spend Time With Good People

According to Jim Rohn, the famous entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So, make sure these five people are individuals who inspire and elevate you—and not those that hold you back or drag you down. If there are people in your life that constantly criticize or insult you, or cause you to engage in harmful habits, limit the amount of time you spend with them. Instead, look for people who bring out your best self or make you feel happy, and actively pursue time with them.

7. Get Professional Help

If you've already tried these strategies and nothing seems to help, or if you feel like your mood issue is becoming more serious, it's best to get professional help. You never need to "tough it out" or go it alone. There are many who stand ready to help you. A good place to start may be the American Veterinary Medical Association, which offers a number of well-being resources for veterinarian professionals.

Prioritizing Long-Term Wellness

When it comes to boosting mood and overall spirit, it's important to remember this is a long-term effort. You'll have the best chance of success by making slow, gradual changes over time—and finding ways to make those changes a part of your regular routine or lifestyle.

When first getting started, it may be best to simply choose one of these tips, perhaps combining it with additional self-care strategies for veterinarians, and then go from there. Remember: You're far from alone. If you fall down along the way, there are people and resources ready to help you back up.

Sarah Wooten
DVM, CVJ

A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well known influencer in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has over 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications. Dr. Wooten has spoken in the veterinary education space since 2015, and speaks on leadership, client communication, and personal development. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years experience in small animal veterinary practice. She is also a co-creator of the wildly popular card game ‘Vets Against Insanity’. When it is time to play, she can be found skiing in Colorado or diving with sharks in the Caribbean. Go big...or go home. To learn more, visit drsarahwooten.com. 

The views and opinions in this piece are the authors own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.


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