Waging war against the winter blues


All my friends seem to be on holiday at the moment. Thailand, Bali, the Caribbean, Spain…they’ve rejected England’s soggy, grey autumnal landscape for sunnier climes, and I don’t blame them. However the most exotic trip I’ve made recently is to my local Tesco Metro, so I’m a tad jealous.

It doesn’t help that we’re speeding into that point in the calendar that spurs even the most sensible Brits to make like a hedgehog, hunker down under a pile of blankets with large supplies of tea, hobnobs and five seasons of Breaking Bad, not to emerge until March. Today the outside world is cold, dark, wet and generally hostile. That alone is enough to inspire most people to dive under the duvet – if you suffer from anxiety or depression it’s yet another reason to seek refuge and withdraw from real life.

If there’s anything I’ve learned during my long walk with the black dog, it’s that when it comes to the instructions anxiety and depression send you – ‘you can’t do that’, ‘retreat’, ‘stay at home’ – a good rule of thumb is to do the complete opposite. If your frazzled nervous system tells you to cower in the corner because it’s miserable outside, then it’s ruling you. If we let anxiety and negative thoughts dictate our actions then we’re just opening the door to further isolation, depression and fear – and mental illness is winning. However if we can muster the strength to turn anxiety on it’s head and expose ourself to life outside in deepest, darkest winter, even though we’d rather hibernate, we might realise it’s not so awful.

Want to stay in on Friday night, become one with the sofa and watch re-runs of Friends until your eyes bleed? Get up and go to that party you’ve been invited to. Talk to strangers even though it’s scary, connect with other human beings, laugh, dance and you might just enjoy yourself and sleep deeply and contentedly when you get home, as opposed to the fitful, broken rest you probably would have got if you’d spent the night as a couch potato.

Feel like eating your body mass in macaroni cheese, chased down with chocolate fudge brownies? Have some broccoli. Go for a run. I guarantee looking after your body reaps massive rewards when it comes to mental health. It’s not easy to pick fruit and veg over takeaway at this time of year, but stodgy comfort food just makes you more lethargic and unmotivated in the long run.

Too afraid to go on a date with that hottie you met at the Christmas party, because depression tells you you’ve got the sex appeal of a mountain goat? Fake it. Go out anyway, pretend you’re the sexiest piece of ass since Megan Fox/Brad Pitt/Spongebob Squarepants, even if you don’t believe it. Flirt, allow yourself to be complimented, pretend you’re desirable even though depression tells you you’re not worth it, and who knows, you might just start to feel better about yourself for real.

It also helps to remember the great things about this time of year that those living the beach dream in hot, sunny climates never get to experience. Lovely winter coats! Hot chocolate! Warm knickers fresh off the radiator! I could go on.

So instead of crumbling in the face of the coming months of sofa-worthy weather, let’s stay active, keep having fun and give the winter blues the finger. Screw Thailand, it’s all about Slough, Bolton and Wraysbury in late November – who needs palm trees when you have sticky-floored pubs, tramps and Argos? Who’s with me? Guys?