To hold yourself accountable, consider scheduling weekly or monthly hangouts, she says. This could mean starting a book club, a dinner club, or a board game night.
If hanging out inside doesn’t sound relaxing to you—for instance, if you face a higher risk of severe COVID or if you live with someone who falls into this group—consider scheduling a weekly FaceTime date with people you’d like to stay in touch with, or brainstorm ways to bundle up and meet with friends outdoors as it gets colder.
Whatever the activity, the important thing here is to get something on the calendar and stick with it, Dr. Gallagher says. That way, you know that every Wednesday night or Saturday afternoon you’ll get to catch up with others and reap the benefits of that social connection.
Ease back into indoor workouts.
We know this one is especially painful for all you long-distance runners, but it’s better to plan for this reality now rather than waiting until it’s too icy to do the workout you love the most, Dr. Drerup says.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prepare for the day when it’s officially too frigid to exercise outside. You could join a gym (and, to kill two birds with one stone, set up gym dates with a friend—that way you’re setting yourself up for exercise and social connection), invest in some home gym equipment, or just start looking up at-home workout routines that don’t require loads of space or special equipment.
Depending on where you live, you also may be able to find other ways to move your body outdoors with an activity like skiing, snowshoeing, or ice skating. If you’re able, these can be extra beneficial, Dr. Drerup says, since they give you both a workout and some much-needed fresh air.
Create a list of new things you’d like to try.
If your lifestyle revolves around outdoor activities in the summer—like reading in the park or picnicking with friends at a local lake—winter can seem pretty jarring. You may find yourself wondering how to fill the time when there are very few hours of sunlight each day.
With this in mind, try making a list of all the indoor activities you want to explore this winter now. “Trying something new can be really good for our mental health,” Dr. Gallagher explains. These projects can be as low-maintenance or involved as you want, Dr. Drerup adds. Unsure where to start? A lot of folks find fulfillment in journaling, trying new recipes, getting into a new board game, or revisiting old hobbies (like knitting or coloring).
The important thing, again, is being intentional here. Don’t wait until you’re so bored and feeling cooped up indoors that you can’t think straight. Make a plan now for how you’ll fill the time once you’re getting hit with three-day snowstorms and below-freezing temperatures.
Touch base with a mental health provider, if you’re able.
If you’ve been putting off the (admittedly tough) challenge of finding a therapist, consider this your sign to get going today. One of the biggest hurdles to mental health care is cost, but this guide can help you find an affordable provider. If you’re totally new to therapy and don’t know where to begin, make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you have one. They should be able to guide you to the appropriate mental health experts available near you or via telehealth.
If you already have a therapist but haven’t seen them in a while thanks to all those fun summer activities that kept you busy, get your winter appointments on the books now. What you shouldn’t do is wait until February when you’re experiencing SAD symptoms…only to find out your therapist now has a three-week wait. “Be proactive about your mental health,” Dr. Gallagher says. That way, you and your therapist can have a plan in place to take care of your mental health when you need help most.
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If you are struggling with feelings of depression and need someone to talk to, you can get support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or by texting HOME to 741-741, the Crisis Text Line. If you’re outside the United States, here is a list of international suicide helplines.
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