During the colder seasons, it may feel difficult to get through your day to day. As the days get shorter and increasingly frigid, feeling lethargic, unmotivated, and having low moods can be very common. According to Dr. Luisa Bazan, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health, “We have less exposure to sunlight during the winter months, and that affects our internal clock…Unfortunately, reduced sun exposure can dramatically affect your circadian rhythm, causing your body to produce more melatonin (a.k.a., the sleep hormone) …The end result: You feel tired more often.” Low exposure to sunlight can also decrease levels of serotonin, which can cause a substantial amount of “winter fatigue.” Personally, once daylight saving time begins, finding the motivation to do anything is tough and so is holding myself accountable to my daily tasks. It is undeniable that there is comfort in a toasty, warm room and becoming reclusive during harsh winters, but let’s ask ourselves – what are we gaining? According to one of Breakthrough’s interns, Natalie Sarra, “I try to be mindful of how much time I spend outside, even on the cold days. Getting fresh air and sun exposure is important during every season.”
Some Ways to Beat those Winter Blues:
“I can’t this week, maybe next week?” “Raincheck?” “Next month?” “Can I get back to you?”
When our busy and hectic schedules start to fill our calendars, it may seem difficult to share our time with the people in our lives. Healthy relationships and friendships can be difficult to keep when you have a demanding routine and can result in a loss of connection. Feeling like there is a lack of time can often make us feel guilty for neglecting people we care about, can make spending time with others feel like a chore, or can even make us neglect our own self-care by not sustaining our social life. However, one thing that is most important to remember is being more social isn’t about pleasing everyone around you! According to one of Breakthrough’s interns, Kellie Cassidy, “Nothing is easy about having a busy schedule and focusing on your future, but it is even harder when we do it alone. I have learned that not only is nurturing your relationship and friendships important for the relationship itself, but it also recharges us.” So, how can we nurture our friendships and relationships and maintain a connection with friends and family?
Benefits of nurturing healthy relationships and friendships:
Ways to nurture healthy relationships and friendships:
We all dread it and we all try to avoid it – Burnout.
Burnout can happen when we feel overwhelmed, unappreciated, and unmotivated.
According to Health Guide, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, which can occur when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.” Contrary to belief, burnout isn’t something that can happen overnight, but gradually builds up into tension. Personally, burnout starts with extreme exhaustion, brain fog, forgetfulness, and then manifests into physical illnesses like a cold or the flu. Every person experiences burnout in a different way and it is important that we notice early symptoms of burnout to avoid further consequences to your physical and mental health. Other signs of burnout consist of (but are not limited to) are exhaustion, unproductivity, trouble sleeping, symptoms of depression, “drowning,” fatigue, irritability, and isolation.
According to one of Breakthrough’s staff psychotherapists, Marissa Mangione, MS., MHC-LP, “everyone experiences burnout in all areas of life and it’s valid to feel burnt-out. When I feel burnout, I like to reach out to friends or change my environment and I like to treat myself!”
There are many causes of burnout, which include feeling burnout from a job, from a lifestyle, or from a personality trait:
Personality traits that can contribute to burnout:
Job-related causes of burnout:
Lifestyle causes of burnout:
Some Ways to Tackle Burnout
Mornings can sometimes be super dreadful and if you’re like me, morning anxiety has its way of creeping in. Could it be because of that long and anticipated to-do list for the day? Could it be not knowing how my day is going to go? Or could it be because my “for you page” was too accurate on TikTok, so I didn’t get enough sleep from the night before? There are many reasons why morning anxiety can be triggered (i.e., increased blood flow, higher adrenaline, caffeine intake, and even low blood sugar), but taking a moment to recognize and acknowledge these triggers, and implementing healthy coping techniques can lessen this morning monster. According to one of Breakthrough’s interns Nicole Layer, “morning anxiety can be extremely debilitating. I suggest giving yourself a lot of time to wake up so there is no rushing and so you can process the day in front of you. Also, avoid caffeine!”
What is morning anxiety?
The Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR), also known as “morning anxiety,” is caused by the increase of cortisol aka the “stress hormone.” According to Healthline, cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear or stress and is found to be at its highest in the first hour of waking up for those who suffer from increased levels of stress. Although morning anxiety isn’t a formal mental health diagnosis, it can be described with feelings of distress, dread, worry, or even pressure in the morning. More often than not, people who are diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) may be more receptive to feeling morning anxiety, but that does not mean morning anxiety is only limited to those who are diagnosed with GAD.
What are some symptoms of morning anxiety?
Some ways to defeat morning anxiety
· Recognize triggers and acknowledge that you are having morning anxiety
· Challenge anxious and negative thoughts and replacing them with positivity and reality
· Focus on good sleep hygiene for better sleep
o try getting those 8 hours, reduce your screen time, and sleep before midnight!
· Limit social media use, especially before bed and as soon as you wake up!
· Eat a good, healthy breakfast
o magnesium-rich foods like oatmeal, almond butter toast, whole grains, wheat, oat bran, banana oat pancakes
· Develop a morning routine
o shower, practice mindfulness and affirmations, practice deep breathing, get ready at an easy pace
· Plan from the night before
o plan your outfit, meal prep, create a to-do list
· Be active
o Exercise, walk, meditate, stretch
· Reduce your caffeine and sugar intake
· Reduce your alcohol consumption
· Practice mindfulness before sleeping the night before
o When you go to bed worried or wake up during the night with anxious thoughts, you are more likely to feel anxious and concerned about your day in the morning
How many of us check our phones the moment we wake up? Do you also find yourself going on your phone every second? Whether it’s to check an Instagram story, to check if that one person texted you back, to see if your favorite influencer finally dropped that TikTok you’ve been waiting for, or just to keep your idle hands busy because if you’re not scrolling, then it’s boring. Our phones are stuck to us like glue, we never put it down or it’s always in sight.
Now, let’s talk sleep! Who doesn’t love sleep? Sleep can be extremely affected by phone usage, which hinders our productivity and overall mental health. I’m guilty of saying goodnight to my fiancé every night and then scrolling on TikTok for at least 10 minutes when he thinks I’ve gone to sleep! My excuse is that I’m just winding down for the night before closing my eyes, but in reality, what’s really happening is that the blue light that is being emitted from the cell phone screen is restraining the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. When we suppress this production of melatonin it can become difficult for many of us to “turn off” our brains and fall asleep.
Studies show that the majority of those who scored high on the fear of missing out (aka “FOMO”) tend to overuse their phones. Most often than not, these individuals also usually score high on anxiety and depression scales because the excessive use of smartphones interferes with social activities and self-esteem increasing depression and social anxiety. One of Breakthrough’s interns, Karina, voiced “I think the overuse of cell phones and technology makes the real world seem hard because online makes things seem perfect. Some ways that I reduce my screen time is connecting to hobbies that make me feel happy and allowing me to forget about technology (I.e., reading, cooking).”
5 Ways to Decrease Phone Time:
1. Track your screen time
Both the iPhone and Android come with features that enables you to track your screen time on your phone. You can see your daily average time spent, your weekly total, as well as the apps where you spend the most time. Seeing how many hours per week you spend on your phone can really be a wake-up call.
2. Make your phone inconvenient to access
Try putting your phone in another room when you are taking time for yourself to read, journal, study, or even watching a movie. This will enable you to be present in the moment, which will encourage mindfulness. When you are going to bed, place your phone on the night stand so it isn’t right within your reach.
3. Use the "Do Not Disturb" feature
The Do Not Disturb feature, or as we like to say “DND,” teaches us how to spend less time on our phones without much effort. This feature, on both the iPhone and the Android, silences all phone calls, texts, and notifications until you turn the feature off and even gives an option to put time limits on it.
This setting is great for people who are easily distracted by text messages or notifications during the day, which can lead to opening other apps instead of going back to being productive. When that initial trigger isn’t there, you’re less likely to pick up your phone in the first place.
4. Phone free mornings and evenings
It’s not just you! Most of us are tempted to pick up our phones first thing in the morning and mindlessly scroll right before going to bed at night. Instead, try phone-free mornings and evenings. In the mornings try other productive activities like practicing mindfulness, taking a moment to wake up, taking a walk, or exercising. Just before you sleep, put your phone on flight mode – it’s the best way to avoid getting sucked into messages and notifications right before sleeping.
5. Social media detox
Social media can affect us in all sorts of ways, physically and mentally.
If you feel like you tend to “doom scroll” on social media apps replace social media time with educational or other mental health friendly podcasts and videos. Doom scrolling, or doom surfing, is a phenomenon that consists of constantly scrolling through social media and other news sites in order to keep up with the latest new, good or bad. Try a social media detox for at least 10 days and build to make a habit out of it.
Rebecca has a background in creative writing and a Masters of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She recently worked as an Assistant Editorial Manager for a children's book publishing company and is currently an intern at Breakthrough Mental Health Counseling.