Got the winter blues?

Mid way through winter even dynamo-activists can feel a bit sluggish at times. Getting out of bed in the morning becomes a challenge, we tend to consume carbohydrates more frequently, and our mood and general outlook can be as bleak as the weather.

The urge to hibernate and give up might not just be about the upcoming federal election! (for our Australian readers).  The weather and winter day length can have a real effect on our mood.

winter blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a diagnosable mood disorder relating to circadian rhythms (our ‘body clock’) getting all out of whack when our exposure to sunlight decreases in the winter months. While the rates of clinical diagnosis in the Australian population are very low, experiences of this phenomenon at the sub-clinical end of the spectrum are nevertheless a yearly fixture in the lives of many. Colloquially known as the ‘winter blues’; combined with flu season and general inactivity because of adverse weather conditions (particularly in the more southerly regions) it can be a significant factor in our ability to sustain our work as activists and volunteers, so much of which is driven and maintained by the emotional experience of passion and hope.

While spring is just around the corner for Australia and the rest of the Southern hemisphere, there are a few things you can do to kick start your activity and bust those blue feelings.

  • Lean on your support network! Having the blues doesn’t make you abnormal, sometimes a little bit of validation from your buddies can be a great motivator for actioning the solution.

  • Exercise. Easier said than done in the winter months but why not try a few simple ideas to get you started? Dancing around your living room, an indoors exercise session with friends, swimming a few laps at your local indoor pool, going for a brisk walk when there is a break in the weather – anything that gets you moving is helpful.

  • Sunlight. Clinical diagnoses of Seasonal Affective Disorder are best treated with artificial light therapy, but there is an easier and cheaper treatment in abundance right outside your door. Why not visit your local botanic gardens for some excellent colour therapy at the same time? Or get involved with a fun outdoor working bee or permablitz?

  • Go with the flow. When the seasons change, maybe we should too. Perhaps winter is the ideal time to get cosy and rest more. Don’t book lots of evening meetings that will be harder for people to motivate themselves to attend (including you!) Schedule social time and exercise at the lightest and warmest times of the day. Take time for reflection and prepare for periods of high activity when Spring arrives.


What helps you fend off the winter blues?

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2 Responses to “Got the winter blues?”

  1. Thanks for these great reminders Helen!

    I find that the weather can have a big impact on my mood. When I first moved to Melbourne I noticed I’d feel low on grey cloudy days… I had to shake myself out of that given that’s very common weather for Melbourne! I’m in Canberra this week and even though it’s much colder there is a lot of sunshine and clear skies and I can feel them lifting my spirits.

    I’ve also been thinking about seasonal change. In other societies and at other times it’s been completely normal for the seasons to have a big impact on how people live. Like conserving your energy in winter and expending more in spring, having quieter times in a project during the cold and relaunching when it warms up. This stage of capitalism doesn’t make much space for that – we’re supposed to be productive all year round in the same way. The oppressions and injustices we’re fighting as activist don’t take a winter recess.

    In a small way I’m trying out following my instincts rather than forcing myself to do the same things. For example this winter I’m finding it really hard to go to the gym (even though that was great in summer and autumn) whereas long walks in the middle of the day and swimming in a heated pool are just what I want. So I’m still active but in a way which is more ‘seasonally appropriate’ for me.

    It’s an interesting experiment and I feel like it’s making some space around my work-all-the-time-and-do-the-right-thing baggage which is also part of my identity as an activist.

  2. Thanks for your response Holly. I think since writing this tip I have done the same. I’ve been pretty good with keeping up with healthy habits but lately I’ve realised this is the time to slow down a bit and do some hibernating. I’ve also noticed other people are not turning up to meetings or events because its flu season or the weather outside is a bit crap and the evenings are dark, I’d rather organise at a time when everyone is feeling a bit more motivated. Thanks for adding the ‘go with the flow’ point- Spring is almost here…the possibilities!