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4 Tips for Maintaining Your Mental Health During the Winter

4 Tips for Maintaining Your Mental Health During the Winter

January 12, 2023

When the temperature drops and the daytime is short, some find stress levels rise and mood dips. While it may seem like there isn’t much one can do to stave off the negative impact of these inevitable seasonable changes, this isn’t true.


To find out the simplest and most effective tips, we compiled helpful tips and spoke with some experts right here at Heading Health.


Here’s what we’ve learned.

Keep Up with Your Appointments

The winter months can make planning and maintaining appointments more challenging. Busier schedules can drain your energy and make it hard to find a time that works.

A cold, dark day can make it tempting to stay inside and cancel an appointment you’ve already made. If your mood has already been negatively impacted by the winter months, a lack of motivation can make scheduling and attending an appointment seem overwhelming. 


All of these factors contribute to missed appointments for mental and physical health. It’s no surprise that this can take a toll on your mental health, exacerbating issues if you already have them or putting you at risk of developing them. It’s vital that you keep up with your scheduled appointments despite the extra energy required to do so during the winter. 

Victor Furtick, a clinical social worker here at Heading Health, notes that when it comes to avoiding missed appointments, “keeping organized and establishing a consistent structure is key.” 


He recommends:


  • Getting ahead of any appointments that need to be rescheduled by communicating in advance with the care team
  • Creating a calendar system to help you track appointments
  • Setting up reminder texts and emails so you don’t forget about your appointments during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season

Stay Physically Active

As colder temperatures make outdoor activities less desirable or feasible, it’s easy to take on a less active lifestyle. While this may seem like a harmless change, you may be making yourself more vulnerable to feelings of depression and anxiety, as studies have repeatedly connected exercise to improvements in mood and stress reduction. Here are a few simple tips for staying active in the winter.


  • Remember, even the small stuff counts: Small daily activities, from vacuuming to doing the dishes, can still have a positive impact on mental health. So, instead of thinking that if you can’t get in a “regular” workout, you might as well sit around, remember that even just a little exercise can make a difference.
  • Consider Adding Movement to your Work routine: Working from home has afforded greater wardrobe flexibility. Take advantage of this and try wearing workout clothes during the day. This can help get you in the right mindset to try some at-home workouts. If you work from the office, consider taking walking breaks, walking meetings, and walking lunches. Anything to get up and get moving helps (even if you have to bundle up!)
  • Try winter activities: There’s a saying that goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”  For extreme conditions that may be a stretch. But on average it’s sage advice. Bundling up during the winter and taking advantage of opportunities to stay active is often a matter of a wardrobe and a mindset switch. While the cold of the winter can make exercise more difficult, it can also make it more fun, especially if you live in an area where it gets cold enough to snow. Consider trying things like cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, or ice-skating. Or, simply continue your walking, or hiking routines and embrace the sights and sounds the season can offer. 

Get a Light Box

Regular and repeated exposure to sunlight plays a significant role in maintaining our mental health.

As a result, the lack of sunlight in the winter is one of the main reasons it can strain our mental well-being. As the days grow shorter and we spend more time inside, our time in front of the sun gets smaller and smaller. As a result, we become more prone to experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety. 


For some people, the impact is so severe that they develop what is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), characterized by fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. The main treatment for this condition is bright light therapy, where people sit in front of a special lamp for 20-30 minutes every morning. Recent research has found that this technique can be helpful for individuals with other mental health conditions, including depression and bipolar disorder


If you are experiencing a drop in mood during winter, consider purchasing a bright light box. If you do, be sure to find the right one, as some will be more effective than others. Dr. Richard S. Schwartz, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, recommends looking for a light box that:


  • Emits 10,000 lux (a measure of light intensity)
  • Has a screen size of at least 200 square inches
  • Has an ultraviolet (UV) filter, as UV light can be harmful with long-term exposure

More detailed advice on selecting a box can be found here.


Maintain Social Connections

Despite or because of all the holiday events, many may find themselves withdrawing from their social connections, which can quickly lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Here are a few tips to help maintain a sense of social connectedness during the winter. 


  • Make a winter bucket list: Create a list of activities you’d like to complete before the winter ends and challenge your friends to join you.
  • Start a hobby: Though hobbies can be a solitary activity, they frequently encourage people to get out in their communities, join clubs, meet with other hobbyists, and ultimately form new bonds.
  • Hang out with your pets: Manager of Community Outreach, Anit Kaur, reminds us that bonding with our pets can be a good substitute for human interaction. If you have a furry friend, be sure to spend some extra time with them if the winter if it’s putting a strain on your regular socializing.
  • Don’t forget about virtual gatherings: If an in-person connection isn’t possible, schedule a virtual one. While it may not bring the same benefits as being in the same physical space, virtual gatherings can still combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Try organizing a virtual book club, happy hour, cook-off, or trivia night.

These tips are for general mental wellbeing, and may not be suitable if you are in distress. If you are experiencing mental health challenges that do not resolve in a few days you may want to consider reaching out for help from a therapist or medical professional. And, as always, if you are in a crisis please text #741741 or dial #988.

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Complete our consultation form and an intake specialist will get in touch.

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Alternative Treatments for ADHD

Alternative Treatments for ADHD

November 14, 2022

Over 1.6 million U.S. adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Characterized by symptoms such as a short attention span, distractibility, forgetfulness, and impulsivity, the condition can pose a significant challenge to maintaining a successful job, managing relationships, and accomplishing personal goals.


Stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta are the standard treatments for ADHD. These medications work by increasing chemical messengers called dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain’s central nervous system. While highly effective, these medications aren’t the best choice for everyone. Some individuals have other conditions that stimulants can exacerbate, such as:


  • Heart problems
  • Glaucoma
  • An anxiety disorder
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • A history of psychosis


Even when there are no conflicts with other conditions or difficult side effects, stimulants may not be fully effective. Studies have found that 10 to 30 percent of patients do not respond adequately to stimulants


As a result, it’s important for individuals with ADHD to be aware of the alternatives that can either replace or supplement stimulants.

Non-Stimulant Medications

While stimulants are the most common type of medication used to treat ADHD, they aren’t the only option. Some examples of non-stimulant ADHD medications include:


  • Straterra
  • Clonidine
  • Intuniv
  • Qelbree


As Heading Health Psychiatrist Dr. Arif Noorbaksh notes, while these medications may be less effective, they are “generally safer and better tolerated than stimulants.”


Talk with your physicians to determine whether these non-stimulant alternatives are right for you.

Talk Therapy

Medications aren’t the only way to treat the symptoms of ADHD. For example, research has found that cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help with procrastination, time management, and planning.


Aside from addressing the symptoms of ADHD, therapists can also help with some of the stressors it can cause, such as job losses or relationship problems. They can also treat other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, which can exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD. 


Therapists are not the only types of professionals who can help individuals with ADHD overcome their symptoms. ADHD coaches work closely with clients to help them carry out their daily activities in a focused and organized fashion. They provide feedback and suggestions to help them out with tangible goals. They can also help with accountability by checking in on clients to see their progress.

Behavioral Strategies

Even without a professional to guide you, you can make a range of simple changes to your environment and routine that can help you stay focused. Here are a few suggestions.


  • Create a checklist: Having a clear list of what needs to get done can help keep you on track and ensure you don’t forget essential tasks.
  • Decrease distractions: Make a point to limit easy distractions. Make a list of common distractions and avoid them while working on important tasks. Some common anti-distraction strategies may include setting your phone and computer to do-not-disturb mode and avoiding working around your TV. 
  • Try out a fidget device: ADHD can result in excessive fidgeting. Devices designed to channel that fidgeting (e.g., a fidget spinner) can channel it in a healthy way and prevent it from interfering with your ability to concentrate.
  • Set time limits: Though ADHD is associated with distractibility, it can also cause hyper-focused states where individuals zero in on one task for prolonged periods of time. While this can be useful, it can pose a problem if it happens at the expense of other goals. Setting a timer is a quick way to avoid this problem.
  • Create your personal reward system: Positive reinforcement is a well-established technique promoting desired behaviors. Try to give yourself simple rewards, such as a walking break, gold star on a tracking system, or a tasty snack like a piece of chocolate, when you’ve completed a task.  

Support Groups

As with any mental health condition, talking with others who have ADHD can be helpful. Learning that other people experience similar difficulties can mitigate the sense of shame and guilt that individuals with ADHD can experience. Success stories can be a powerful motivator and provide unique strategies for coping with their symptoms and improving overall functioning. Like coaching, support groups can also be helpful for accountability purposes. Knowing that you’ll meet with a group to discuss how you’ve been managing your ADHD may provide additional motivation to stick with your tools and strategies.

Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes

While nutrition and lifestyle habits may not cause ADHD, specific diets and behaviors can help mitigate the symptoms. Sally Twellman, nutritional therapist at Heading Health, recommends:


  • A high-fiber plant-rich diet
  • Brightly colored fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants
  • Avoiding processed foods, especially those high in preservatives and artificial dyes
  • Checking for food sensitivities (e.g., gluten allergies).

Aside from diet, exercise has been investigated as a potential tool for alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. For example, a recent meta-analysis found that exercise improves executive function (i.e., mental abilities associated with memory, organization, planning, attention, etc.). Importantly, they found that exercise intensity did not impact the therapeutic effects of exercise, meaning even moderate exercise can help with ADHD.


A good night’s sleep can also have a significant on ADHD symptoms. Though ADHD can make it difficult to get a good night’s rest, a few simple techniques can make sleeping well easier. 


Here are some suggestions:


  • Avoid napping within four hours of your bedtime.
  • Don’t consume caffeine within 12 hours of your bedtime.
  • Go to bed around the same time every time.
  • Develop a calming bedtime routine.
  • Use a blue light filter when looking at screens close to bedtime.
Take the first step

Want to find out if Heading is right for you? 

Complete our consultation form and an intake specialist will get in touch.

Schedule your consultation