05 Feb 2022

How to Avoid the Winter Blues In Recovery

Anxiety is one of the most common side effects of recovery. Not only will you likely experience it during early recovery, you may suffer from long-term anxiety including panic attacks, social anxiety, and general anxiety.

Everyone gets excited when leaves become vibrant and pumpkin spiced lattes emerge from their warm-weather hibernation. But before too long, the sky turns a particularly-depressing shade of gray and we all slink back into our own dark corners of the world.

This is probably true for most people, but it’s especially true for recovering addicts who live in colder climates.

The winter blues are real.

Here are some tips to help keep your spirits up when the temperature drops:

1. Soak up the sunshine. Regardless of whether you live in Nebraska or New Mexico, winter days don’t have as many hours of sunlight. This can disrupt your body’s clock and lead to depression. Make a point to get out of the house every day, even if it’s to take the do for a walk.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with depression, and the sun is a major source of the good stuff. Unfortunately, you’re likely to be bundled up with outerwear when you go outside on a winter day. This sounds like a great reason to take a tropical vacation in January.

2. Enlist support. Before it gets too cold, enlist the help of a friend to get you out and about. Ask this person to check in on you from time-to-time throughout the winter to ensure you haven’t become a hermit. Too much time in isolation gives someone in recovery lots of time to think, and this can lead to depressive thoughts.

The person you choose can be a sponsor, but it doesn’t have to be someone related to drug addiction. Just choose someone who understands the importance of warding off depression. It may even be someone who lives with you.

3. Meditate. Depending on where you live, going outside may not always be the best option (think single digits and 2’ of snow). Because of this, you’ll need to find ways to lift your spirits indoors. Meditation has been proven to be effective in recovery, and it can naturally increase your dopamine levels.

Start by sitting on the floor in a quiet room in a relaxed position. Relax your body and then attempt to clear your mind. If you find this easier-said-than-done, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Meditation takes a lot of practice, but it is worth the effort. Many people find it helpful to focus on your breath. Don’t try to control anything; just notice the air moving in and out.

Depression is a serious illness, and it’s a reality of recovery for many people. Both anxiety and depression are common symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which is the stage of recovery that comes after the physical symptoms subside.

Although everyone may get the winter blues, it’s especially dangerous for someone in early recovery. Plan to hang out with friends, spend time outdoors and take care of your body and mind.

About the Author

Trevor McDonald
Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic whose been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources and addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.