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Winter Wellbeing Blog

03 Dec 20

Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust’s (HPFT) Head of Recovery and Psychological Services, Andrew Nicholls has some suggestions for how to stay well in winter and where to go for some professional help if you’re struggling. Andrew has worked for the NHS for 30 years, where he continues to practice clinically. He said: “Colder temperatures and shorter days can put a damper on your mood and sometimes trigger feelings of stress, anxiety, worry, depression and loneliness, especially after living through such an unsettling year as 2020..

“There are lots of ways to help make this time of the year easier mentally and here are some simple tips and ideas that could help improve your overall health and wellbeing.


Being distressed and unhappy can leave you feeling low in energy, and this of course might put you off being more active but regular exercise can boost your mood and can be especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.

Getting out for daily walks during daylight hours can help clear your mind whilst keeping you active. You can also exercise at home - find out more on how exercise can help you with your mental health and take a look at the guides to getting started on this NHS page.

Many people report finding yoga and breathing exercises to be relaxing and helpful for their mental health– particularly depression and stress.  You can find out more information on local yoga provisions and its many benefits here.


Take care of yourself– Have some ‘Me’ time

If you are dealing with stress, anxiety or insomnia try a calming routine in the evening after the toils of the day are done (or the morning of course for the many of us who work nights). Settling down to a regular routine of a calming activity, a warm bath perhaps, a pleasant aroma can help to prepare you for sleep.

You can go a step further and give yourself some home-pampering by lighting a few candles and putting on a calming music playlist to relax to. For suggestions on playlists you can check out the NHS Apps library for apps like Stress & Anxiety Companion, Cove and many more which can suggest the right playlists for your relaxation.


Stay connected

Keeping connected with family and friends is a good way to keep you busy and also manage feelings of loneliness.  You can share emails and photos with family and friends - video calls are even better! There are many free services that you can use for video calling such as Skype or FaceTime.

You can also make new online "friends" or reconnect with old friends on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter or join website forums and community groups around specific interests you may have. Hertfordshire Healthy Hubs  has information on local community groups you can join for support and companionship.


Keep busy – Be productive

Keep yourself busy and productive by learning a new skill. You may want to learn a new recipe which is both tasty and healthy – maybe for a soup that’ll keep you warm! Find out about healthy eating and cooking tips

Have a winter-clean – similar to a spring-clean, you may want to clean up and clear out, or do some DIY around the house. This will help keep you busy and active sometimes.


Talk about it

During the winter many people feel challenged by the lead up to Christmas and the New Year. Talking to trusted family and friends about your worries can help; and also talking to specialist professionals and services can assist you with dealing with your worries on a day-to-day basis. Check out Hertfordshire Healthy Hubs for specific services that can help ease some of your worries.

Talking therapies, also called psychological therapies, are effective and confidential treatments delivered by fully trained and accredited NHS practitioners. They can help with common mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression. A GP can refer you, or you can refer yourself directly to your local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapy) service without a referral from a GP. Visit our website to find your local IAPT service.

Self-help resources and other useful websites:

Every Mind Matters website

Mental Health Foundation


Breathing exercises for managing anxiety, depression and stress

Healthy Hubs

Befriending services – People living alone

Andrew continued: “If you’re struggling, or would just like to talk to someone for advice about yourself or someone you care for, HPFT’s Freephone helpline is available to help every day and at any time of the day or night on 0800 6444 101 or you can use the webchat service from Monday to Friday 7am-7pm. Always remember that you’re not alone and there are lots of people who can help you to get the support you need..”

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