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How to Avoid the Winter Blues

While the idea of clocks “falling back” an hour and gaining an hour of sleep sounds beneficial, many of us tend to see this as the start of a stressful next few months. Between working, traveling, and shopping, adding in cold weather and darkness increases anxiety and stress for many. Dr. Saman Hafeez, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, explains how setting the clocks back can negatively affect people and offers advice on how to avoid the winter blues.


Set a sleep regimen.
Gaining an hour of sleep does no harm, but losing an hour of daylight can.
Dr. Hafeez explains that around 3 million people are affected by some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where it’s more common in women and can stick around throughout the holidays. To combat this, Dr. Hafeez suggests hopping into bed an hour earlier than normal and dedicating time to wind down in a way that relaxes the mind. “Don’t watch the news before sleep; read a book, write in a journal, or meditate. Do something that eases you into a restful state,” she says.

Change up your exercise schedule.
We know it’s the end of the day when we look outside and see the stars. But during Daylight Saving Time, darkness comes early and can alter our routines. Because of this, we tend to feel unmotivated when it comes to exercising. Although this is normal, getting out of this funk is important, both physically and mentally. Dr. Hafeez advises, “It’s important that you give your brain new stimulation. Try working out after work instead of in the morning or, if possible join a workout app that brings at home exercise routines right to your phone.”

Social withdrawal is common in the winter when temperatures drop. Take turns hosting dinner events and get around people.

Book your calendar.
While it’s human nature to want to hibernate all winter, spending time with family and friends can help ditch those winter blues. Fill up your empty days with movie nights, dinner dates, and fun winter activities. The more you have to look forward to the better your mood will be! “Social withdrawal is common in the winter when temperatures drop. Take turns hosting dinner events and get around people,” Hafeez encourages.

Study up!
Tired of watching Netflix? Sharpen the skills you have now and commit to learning new ones instead. “When you engage the part of your brain responsible for learning you’re more inspired and alert. Even listening to podcasts and participating in interesting webinars on a topic you’re interested in will increase energy,” Hafeez says.

Experiment with new recipes.
Reaching for comfort foods during this time becomes extremely tempting. Instead of eating out at restaurants, experiment and learn new recipes in the comfort of your own kitchen. And with so many fresh food delivery options available, there’s no excuse! “I really like this idea because it engages the senses which stimulates the brain. You’re releasing positive brain chemicals triggered by excitement, adventure, task execution and enjoyment, plus you’re eating healthy,” Hafeez says.

About the doctor:
Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens.

Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and The Doctors.

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