How to handle depression during winter

There’s something about winter that seems to suck the life out of just about everything. After the brief dip into happiness and belonging that most of us feel around Christmas, […]

There’s something about winter that seems to suck the life out of just about everything. After the brief dip into happiness and belonging that most of us feel around Christmas, there really seems to be very little to be excited about.

It gets really, really bloody cold, it seems like it’s perpetually raining, and is often the time people are lowest on money. In truth, winter seems the perfect seasonal metaphor for feelings of depression, anxiety and isolation – cold, dark and miserable.

On top of that, we live in a culture where 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental health issue in the space of a year, and owing to a combination of stiff upper lip attitudes, and a general masculine taboo surrounding mental health, men are at an even greater risk of committing suicide, with the Mental Health Foundation stating that men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women, but in truth it is still a problem that a great deal of people struggle with, regardless of gender.

Winter really can be a pretty shit time to be a young person, although it is a fact that may be overlooked. I’m not here to write some bullshit, buzzfeed list of different types of soup that will make you feel better this winter, but as someone who has first-hand experience of what it’s like to feel very down through the winter months, here’s my little guide of how to keep your head above water this winter.


Big cliché, but don’t be afraid to talk to your pals, and your family

It may sound very obvious, but sometimes having a word with a close friend, or a family member you trust, can be the difference between going to bed miserable, or obtaining that little bit of extra optimism. I can be a real pain to my family sometimes, and we’ve had some pretty rough arguments, but I know deep down if I’m truly feeling bad, my brothers, or grandparents or dad will be able to put any dramas aside for one second, and try and cheer me up. The same goes for mates – it might be awkward at first, but I guarantee you, ask any one of your close friends and they’d rather you speak with them if you’re feeling down, than have you hurting inside.

Feel like you can’t talk to your pals/family? Try Student Services, or even a helpline like Samaritans

Obviously not everyone has the luxury of a good familial support network, and that in itself may be one of the things that has you feeling upset, and that is completely okay, but let me tell you, student services at university are actually pretty sound, ngl. They’re very friendly, and not in a patronising, cringe way, but sort of like an auntie or an uncle way – and more importantly they actually offer really good advice, be it counselling (which I’ve not had the pleasure of receiving but I have heard very good things), financial advice, or just someone to get something off your chest too.

Obviously they aren’t there 24 hours a day, and sometimes people drink during an evening and start getting really, dangerously sad – that’s when you need to talk it out the most. If you honestly have no one to talk to then I would really recommend calling someone like Samaritans. I’ve called them before and it actually helps a lot, but for even more assurance I asked a friend (who doesn’t want to be named, the little enigma) and she said:

Honestly, I was on the brink one night, and very drunk and crying uncontrollably and I called Samaritans and spoke for like an hour, just walking around Portswood. Not only did I sober up and rethink everything, I also managed to let out a lot of the pent up emotion. I even made my lecture the next day.

Exercise is actually a great way to get natural feel good chemicals flowing round your sexy body

So get this right, not only can you get that irresistible summer body, it also helps if you’re struggling with depression/anxiety/etc… How great is that? Obviously it would be better if KFC did all those things, but the world is not perfect, so this is still kind of a good thing.

Exercise releases natural endorphins, namely dopamine which is the feel good chemical you get when you fall in love, have sex, and work that wonderful body of yours out. You don’t even have to go to the gym, or even go for a run – something as small as a walk for a few miles, listening to some feel good music can make all the difference.

Ditch the booze for a while

Whether you like it or not, alcohol is a very, very dangerous and mind altering drug – it’s also a depressant. You may not feel it, but even a couple of days after a heavy session, the effects of alcohol are still wreaking havoc on your mind and body. It may temporarily cheer you up, but it’s also a catalyst for depression and anxiety to creep into your life, and we definitely do not want that. Doing something as little as cutting out drink for a while can be a vital step in controlling and managing your mood and behaviour, it’s also a bloody fantastic way to lose weight and we’re back to that gorgeous summer body. You will literally be the envy of everyone with your toned abs, great skin and relatively stable mind frame, I’m buzzing for you already.

If you’re still reading at this point it’s important to add here at the end that you are not alone, millions of people are currently struggling with the same sorts of problems that you are, and although there is no fix all for things like this, and mental health is not taken seriously enough by any measure, there are ways out there to improve and manage mental health issues like the one discussed. If you are already doing all of these and still struggling, then the final thing is really important: go and see a doctor.

Although there’s a big taboo around medication, when combined with verbal therapy they have been proved to be quite effective, there is no shame in getting help. But yeah, I hope this has been helpful in some way, and if you’re ever feeling really lonely I will happily go for a coffee with any of you, no joke, I’ve actually got three or four really good jokes that I’m saving for a big occasion.