ETSU experts offer tips to deal with winter stress

Published 8:04 am Monday, January 16, 2023

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For some, the start of winter signals the holidays, a time marked by celebration and joy. Yet for others, the gray days and long nights are a period highlighted by increases in stress, anxiety or depression.
To help, professionals at the East Tennessee State University Counseling Center have provided a range of tips to get through the cold weather months.
“Everyone is different,” said Cynthia Millhorn. “So, pick and choose what feels right for you and your personality and preferences.”
Bundling up and getting outside is a great step toward better mental health.
“Sunshine and fresh air are essential to boosting your mental health,” Millhorn said.
Pressing play on a favorite playlist, hosting a private dance party or visiting a gym for a workout or new class are other great options.
“Being around other people and moving can be really good for your mental health,” she added.
Eating nourishing and nutritious food helps properly fuel your body. Also important: rest. While humans need quality sleep year-round, that’s especially true in winter.
“We naturally feel more tired with less sunlight, colder temperatures and often the added stress of holidays, travel, work, family, school and interrupted schedules and routines, so indulge in some extra sleep,” she said.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness can also be deeply helpful. Creating a space at home or even outside that’s quiet and allows you to express gratitude is key.
 “Being grateful and making it a daily practice really does lead to a boost in your mood and creates deep resonating joy that transcends current circumstances or stress you may be experiencing,” Millhorn added.
On that front, a daily gratitude journal can help, she said.
Human connection is vital to better mental health.
“Having a support system and relationships is so important, and this can be discouraging if you don’t feel that you have that,” she said. “To create connection and start building that support system, try new activities.”
A new hobby can help: Taking an art class or signing up for a new activity can be a good start, and ETSU hosts a range of events, many of them free.
Occasionally disconnecting from social media also has benefits, she said.
“We were not intended to absorb so much high-stress information,” Millhorn said. “So, be human and disconnect – allow yourself the freedom to exist within your orbit and not take on too much.”
Always reach out to a professional if you feel you need help.
“One of the bravest things you can do is to reach out when you are in a dark place or recognize you can’t go it alone,” she said.
If you are in crisis or experiencing a life-threatening emergency, always call 911. ETSU students, faculty and staff experiencing a non-life-threatening emotional crisis may call (423) 439-4841 and press 2 to speak to a licensed counselor.

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