How to beat the winter blues

It’s November, parenting comrades! Bring on the increased darkness, the snow and the cold and the onset of the holiday craziness.

It’s time for everything to get … HARDER! Yee-hah!

I wish I were kidding. But I’m not. These are just some of the challenges that come with this hectic time of year and the seasonal shift to winter in Minnesota.

It is what it is, folks. But we don’t have to let these stresses get the best of us. Consider these proactive strategies — which have actually worked for me — to navigate some of the challenges of the season ahead:

Increased darkness

Seasonal mood shifts aren’t uncommon in our geographical region and some of us can experience the “winter blues” or, in more intense cases, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

November and December have always been harder months for me, but it took me several years to really understand how clearly my symptoms were associated with the increased darkness in late fall and winter. When I did, however, it was quite liberating to know what I was experiencing didn’t have to be my normal. 

To help offset symptoms of the winter blues, I take vitamin D and omega-3 supplements. I also to try to get as much exposure to natural light during the day as I can. (All of these things can help regulate mood by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.) 

I also use a therapy light. I keep it on my desk in my classroom and I try to get the recommended 30 minutes of exposure in the morning while I’m working on my computer. It’s been empowering to take some control of my well-being and to gain some understanding of why I was feeling the way I was, and these small changes have been effective.

Snow and cold

It can be tempting to hunker down and hibernate all winter. 

But studies show spending time outside each day can help both children and adults boost creativity and focus, while improving mood and self-esteem. 

I suggest trying out some winter sports and activities you and your family can enjoy together outdoors. In our family, we enjoy both Nordic and downhill skiing. Invest in good winter gear so everyone is warm, dry and comfortable. (See links to my gear recommendations for families at

Try to find some indoor activities and/or events you can enjoy as a family, such as a movie night or board game night scheduled into the rhythm of your week. Our family likes to attend high school sporting events, which are fun to watch and also allow for some social interaction.

Holiday craziness

The hustle and bustle associated with the holiday season can be overwhelming, due to financial issues, lack of time, difficulty adhering to healthy habits, commercialism and the pressure to get and give gifts. We can be proactive by thinking about what stresses us out about the holiday season in advance, and then creating some plans of action to offset potential stressors.

Here are the strategies I would like to put into action this year:

  • Know your limitations. You might not be able to attend every party/event/activity while managing all of your other responsibilities. You might not be able to please everyone. Be mindful of your own needs and age-appropriate expectations for your children.
  • Sleep and eat healthy food. Make sure you (and your children) get enough sleep — and that everyone in your family has opportunity for some downtime each day. Eat fruits and vegetables. Exercise. When you start feeling stressed, be reflective to see if you’re taking care of yourself. If you’re not, make some changes.
  • Seek your own joy. Just because someone else does something, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. Example: You do NOT need to orchestrate a Pinterest-worthy daily Elf on the Shelf visit to your house — unless it brings you joy.
  • Less can be more. Focus more on giving positive experiences rather than giving into the commercialism associated with the holidays. A calm and present mother baking cookies, playing a game, reading a book or putting together a puzzle with her child will likely be a more valued gift than a frazzled mother offering her child an expensive toy.

The winter months are coming, like it or not. Join me in my efforts to apply proactive stress-management strategies, so we can all make the most of the season ahead!

Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at