Winter can feel lonely even during "normal" times -- and these have not been normal times. Many people have been experiencing elevated stress related to COVID-19 pandemic

With the shorter days and colder weather, which already contribute to seasonal depression, it's extra important to be proactive about your mental health this winter. These tips can help.

Have a Plan

Take time to recognize what self-care strategies work best for you. You can even make a list of comforting things to do when you're feeling down or stir-crazy. Post it on the fridge or your bedroom wall, or save it on your smartphone, so it's easy to reference when you need it.

Start (Or Continue) a New Routine

Making even small changes to your daily or weekly routine can help break you out of a rut. Your schedule doesn't need to be jam-packed with color-coded appointments or plugged into your Google calendar. Just pencil in some small changes, and follow through with intention.

Manage Your Expectations

We’ve heard it time and time again, but very little of 2020 was been "normal," so expect winter will likely feel different from years past, too. It’s OK to grieve, but also important to accept it and appreciate some positive differences.

Think About What Self-Care Means to You

Indulge in activities that help you relax, reset, and refocus. This may mean escaping into a mystery novel, soaking in a hot bath, or even blasting hardcore rock while doing a tough HIIT workout. Whatever your choice, make it a priority -- and stock up on books, bath salts, or fitness equipment if you don't already have them on hand.

Get Outside

Preferably, getting outdoors while the sun is still out can make a real difference in your mental state. But even if it's snowy or dark, find a way to bundle up and get outside for a stroll. It's especially important during a year when we've felt cooped up inside our homes.

Learn to Differentiate Between Worries and Concerns

Recognize what you can and can't control. For instance, you can't control the weather, but you can control what types of movies, TV shows, media, and even food you choose to get through rainy days. 

And the Difference Between Loneliness and Simply Being Alone

Just because someone is physically alone doesn’t necessarily mean they're lonely. Some people need a little solo time to decompress. However, if you find yourself dealing with self-doubt or self-disparaging thoughts, go back to your list of self-care strategies. Or reach out for help, such as contacting someone at Confidant.

Make Your Needs Known

If you're yearning for more interaction with friends or family, or if you're feeling crowded in and could use a little alone time, let people know. 

Have Some Empathy for Yourself

It’s great to have goals or something you’re working toward. Just remember you’re only human. Some weeks you may find it easy and enjoyable to cook a healthy dinner every night but forgive yourself for ordering the occasional pizza on evenings when you weren't feeling up to it.

Treat Yourself to Some Cozy, Comforting Upgrades

Transform your indoor space into something you'll love. Simply clearing out clutter and rearranging your things can make a room feel fresh. There are some great tutorials online for adding little upgrades without spending a lot of cash.

And remember, at Confidant, we're here to help with information and support on managing feelings of loneliness and what signs to look for that may indicate a more serious issue.