With the holidays in the rearview mirror, heading into a new year can come with mixed emotions. Many people are recovering from a busy holiday season, and while they may be excited for the possibilities ahead, they could also feel stressed trying to catch up financially. Plus, with months of winter still to go, it can be easy to get stuck feeling blue. Here are ways to help combat post-holiday stress and boost mental wellness in the winter and beyond.
For many states, the darkest, coldest, and seemingly longest parts of the year are in winter, particularly at the start of a new year. Many people may spend more time indoors with reduced sunlight and shorter days. Being cooped up inside can be difficult for anyone, but for someone who has a mental illness or experiences seasonal depression, this time of year can be especially challenging. Typically, holiday blues are temporary, but feelings of depression or anxiety during this time of year can sometimes turn into a long-term condition. Understanding how the winter can affect mental health and which resources may be able to help can allow you to navigate this time of year more successfully and find ways to improve winter wellness.
People who experience feelings of sadness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, frustration, and tension during the winter may suffer from the winter blues.1 These symptoms are not uncommon and typically get better once spring arrives. When the feelings of stress and sadness are more intense and longer lasting, there may be a more serious mental health condition going on.
Since wintertime often comes with reduced sunlight, there can be a drop in a brain chemical known as serotonin that affects mood. This may lead to feelings of severe sadness, eating and sleeping issues, and social withdrawal. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a complex disorder and can be more disruptive to day-to-day life. There are several ways to reduce the effects of SAD, including seeking professional mental health services if needed.
Without a focus on wellness, financial stressors, and other unexpected life events can become larger issues that will make it harder to set yourself up for long-term success. Making wellness and self-care a priority, like getting exercise, eating a balanced diet, staying socially engaged, and keeping up with your favorite hobbies, can help lessen the effect of winter on mental health.
Money stress can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health, as well as their ability to access resources for help. Research2 shows that financial worries can play a significant role in mental health. You can easily become overwhelmed if you’re facing economic hardship or feel stressed by debt, mounting bills, or other financial strains. Add in the financial demands of the holidays, and your mood can be drastically affected. Understanding the feelings associated with money management and finding ways to lessen overspending and stick to a budget can help reduce financial stress and improve overall wellness.
Since money stress and winter blues can often go hand in hand, taking a proactive approach may lead to better luck in lessening their effect on your overall wellbeing. Here are some helpful tips for getting finances in order and beating the winter blues.
Got a gift card to Target burning a hole in your pocket? Consider using it to buy household essentials like groceries rather than random goodies. This can help put more money toward the essentials instead of bringing home items you really don’t need.
Many holiday shoppers use credit cards to cover the additional expenses that can come with the season. Head into the New Year with a clear plan of action on how to pay down your debt as soon as possible. What can be cut out of this month's budget to allocate toward debt instead? Use being stuck indoors to your advantage and engage with free entertainment and family time so portions of your typical entertainment budget can go toward paying off debt.
During emotionally down times, it may be wise to avoid important financial decisions, like purchasing a house or relocating to a new city. You may also want to pay close attention to your spending if you tend to make non-essential purchases when you’re feeling low. Smart money decisions often come during a time when you’re confident in your financial situation and money management skills.
With more time spent inside, it can be tempting to camp out in front of the TV or scroll on your phone. Try to limit your screen time, especially in the evenings, and take breaks from the news and social media. Replace this time with enjoyable activities, like playing a game with your family, listening to music, or cooking a favorite meal.
Connecting with loved ones can lift your spirits and help you feel recharged. Schedule a phone call or FaceTime if you cannot visit in person. You may also seek the guidance of a trusted friend or family member to receive financial advice or just to have a safe place to vent and find moral support.
Often, getting your feelings and worries down on paper can help lessen their impact on your mental health. Whether their financial concerns, personal issues, or anything in between, take time to jot each one down. This method may also help work through a problem and find a solution. If you’re especially stressed at bedtime, write down everything you’re worried about and then put it aside until tomorrow. You may find that getting it out can make these worries less overwhelming.
When experiencing winter blues, it’s a good idea to find activities and daily practices that help boost your mood. Exercise, meditation, aromatherapy, listening to comedy podcasts, or watching a funny movie can all be positive ways to improve your winter wellness. Seeking help from a mental health professional3 or counselor can also be very beneficial in combating seasonal depression and finding the support and solutions that you need.
Lowering financial stress is sometimes easier said than done, but taking a more proactive approach to money management can help you make informed financial decisions and keep serious issues from happening. Focus on what you can control, whether refining your budget, creating a payment plan to reduce debt, or automatically depositing money into savings. Meeting with a financial professional can also help minimize money stress by allowing you to seek expert guidance and create a personalized financial plan that aligns with your goals.
1. Mayo Clinic, Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), 2021
2. National Library of Medicine, The Relationship Between Financial Worries and Psychological Distress Among U.S. Adults, 2022
3.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, SAMHSA’s National Helpline, June, 2023
The term financial professional is not intended to imply engagement in an advisory business in which compensation is not related to sales. Financial professionals that are insurance licensed will be paid a commission on the sale of an insurance product.