As we move into the fall and winter months, many people begin to struggle more with their mental health. The cold weather, the darker days, the increase of cold and flu season and the holiday season can all take a toll. More than ever, it’s important to care for ourselves. Preventative care is easier than trying to get a handle on our mental health after we’re already struggling. Because of that, I wanted to help you get a head start in considering what feels supportive to you this winter. I’ve created this list of self care ideas for winter to give you some ideas. But I encourage you to create a list of your own because self care is personal and the options are truly unlimited.
Create a Self Care Menu
In my work with my counselling clients, we often discuss how it’s better to do the thinking and brainstorming before we’re in crisis and need ideas. It’s much harder to figure out what we need when we’re in the midst of a struggle. If you were my client, I’d encourage you to make a “menu” for yourself that lists all the different self-care options available to you. Then pick and choose from that list as you need it.
Below, you’ll notice that I’ve divided the sections up into different aspects of wellness. Our health is holistic and every part of us impacts the other parts. You’ll find suggestions for self-care activities that focus on bodily health, mental health, emotional health, leisure and social connection.
Self Care Ideas For Winter | Body
1. Experiment with different types of movement and exercise.
When it comes to movement, the most important thing is that you actually do it. Every person has different types of movement and exercise that they’re drawn to and that feels good for their body. Figure out what that is and then incorporate it regularly. Some options are: walking, doing yoga, lifting heavy weights, swimming, spinning, doing pilates, or playing a sport. Schedule it in your calendar or plan to go with a friend so you actually do it regularly.
2. Go for daily walks.
Walking outside is good for so many reasons. To name a few: it’s a great form of moving your body (see above), it helps increase mental clarity, and it helps improve the quality of your sleep.
3. Take vitamins and supplements.
Visit your doctor, naturopath or dietician and request recommendations for vitamins and supplements that will help improve any nutritional deficits you may have.
4. Dial in daily routines that support you in feeling your best.
A great place to start with routines is dialling in your morning and your bedtime routines, as these have such an impact on your day and quality of sleep. Sometimes routines get unnecessarily complicated and then stop feeling sustainable. Create routines that are actually supportive to you, not routines that you see others incorporating and talking about.
A great book that talks about the power of routines and habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear – a must-read if you’re interested in this topic.
5. Perfect your skincare routines.
My skincare routine is something that brings me a lot of joy. I love the process of caring for my skin and have turned it into a luxurious feeling experience every day. I take deep breaths and apply my products with care and in turn, feel better in my skin as it feels healthy and nourished. Highly recommend treating your bathroom like a little personal spa.
6. Schedule regular appointments with all your health practitioners.
Regular checkups and care with your different health practitioners is important and something that can easily get neglected. Why waste precious warm weather months going to appointments when you could schedule them into the winter. And then you can also feel proud of yourself for taking good care of your physical health.
Get those doctor, dentist, counselling, physiotherapy, optometrist, etc. appointments on the schedule!
7. Bundle up and get outside, despite the colder weather.
Time spent outside is always going to leave you feeling clearer minded. As someone who works from home, I’ve found this one to be absolutely necessary for my mental health. Invest in winter gear that will actually keep you warm enough and then get your butt outside!
Even just standing on your front porch and taking some deep breaths of fresh air is better than nothing.
8. Stay hydrated
When I invested in this amazing water bottle with a straw, I instantly began drinking more water. Every night, I’ve started filling it with ice and water and leaving it beside my bed so when I wake up in the morning I immediately have refreshingly cold water to sip. I aim to drink one full bottle by 10am each morning and then continue to refill it throughout the day.
In the winter months, with the dry air, our bodies are easily dehydrated. So it’s especially important to replenish our bodies with water.
9. Get regular massages
This is something that I try to do on a monthly basis in the colder months as it helps me manage stress that gets stored in my body. As someone who gets headaches, I’ve tried to incorporate these as a preventative measure.
10. Exfoliate and dry brush your skin
Self Care Ideas For Winter | Mental Health
11. Get a library card and get into reading.
This past year I got myself a library card and it has been the best! I’ve been reading more, saving a lot of money on books and also discovered that most libraries give you access to audio books with your card as well. I’m currently on the waitlist for 5 or 6 books that are on my “want to read” list and when I get the notification that it’s my turn, it’s an instant boost.
12. Spend time decluttering your home.
A cluttered home leaves us feeling mentally cluttered. Spend time decluttering and organizing and it will support you in gaining mental clarity.
13. Create weekly rituals you look forward to.
For me this looks like meal planning and grocery shopping on Saturdays and then meal prepping on Sundays. It helps me make more nutritious meal decisions throughout the week, and has turned cooking into something that I look forward to rather than dread each day.
You can read about my approach to meal planning and a whole roundup of my favourite cookbooks here.
Another ritual we have is watching certain tv shows during the week. It sounds kind of silly but there’s nothing like a mood-boosting show on the agenda for the evening to help me wind down after the work day is over.
14. Have things on the calendar you’re looking forward to. Big or small.
Speaking of having things on the agenda, schedule things in for the months you know you struggle a bit more! You can go big with this one and book a vacation you can look forward to. Or make it simpler/more budget-friendly and make a “free winter bucket list” and plan to do one each week throughout the colder months.
15. Spend time setting goals for the month or the year ahead.
I am a major goal-setter. I live for the new year – revisiting my goals for the past year and setting new goals for the upcoming year. It truly gives me a sense of direction as I navigate my days. I also do mini goal setting sessions each month, where I pull up my annual goals and then set monthly/weekly/daily goals for the month ahead based on those.
16. Practice daily gratitude.
A gratitude practice helps us train our minds to notice the good. Something that can be tougher when we’re in a lower mood. If a gratitude practice is a new concept for you, I recommend using the 5-Minute Journal. It has a handful of short prompts to get you in the habit of practicing gratitude each day.
17. Plan ahead for the holidays – get any shopping done in advance so you don’t have to stress about it.
The holidays are stressful enough without heaping extra stress of rushing around on top. Do your December self a favour and get started on your holiday shopping in advance this year.
Self Care Ideas For Winter | Emotional Health
18. Connect with a therapist.
If you already have a therapist and know winters can be tough on your mental health, consider pre-booking yourself in for some sessions.
It can be so helpful to have a space to talk through your thoughts and feelings, learn new strategies for emotional and mental health, and just be witnessed in whatever it is you’re walking through.
If you’re looking to work with a therapist, identify as female and are based in Canada, I’d love to connect with you! You can check out my counselling website by clicking the button below.
19. Make a few playlists for different moods – dancing, calming, cooking, etc.
I am always listening to different playlists depending on my mood and what I’m doing. Create a handful to listen to based on your different moods. A few suggestions: create a mood boosting dance playlist, a soothing and relaxing playlist, and a date night at home playlist.
20. Incorporate aromatherapy.
Scent is such a powerful sense and something that can help sooth our nervous system. I love incorporating scents into different routines. I actually did a whole blog post on my favourite scents for the colder months – you can read that here.
There are lots of options for this one such guided or unguided, a couple of minutes or a longer practice. The last couple of months I’ve been incorporating a daily unguided morning meditation and have experienced so many benefits as a result! I use the Insight Timer and find it to be a really helpful resource.
There’s not much that clears my mind more than a good journal session. Similar to meditation, there’s a number of ways to approach journalling. You can do it as needed or you might want to introduce a daily practice, whatever feels most helpful to you.
Some people find journal prompts a helpful starting point, others like to brain dump on paper, some journal in point form. Experiment with different styles and see what you like.
When I’m feeling especially anxious, overwhelmed or distracted, I find journalling to be one of the most helpful practices to reset and gain clarity.
23. Make a list of things that feel soothing and regulating for your nervous system – deep breathing, hot baths or showers, yoga, a long hug.
Pay attention to your physical self for this one. What helps you come back to your body, feel calm and more settled? These are the things that are helping regulate your nervous system. Jot down the things that work for you and reference that list when your body, mind, and emotions are feeling dysregulated.
Self Care Ideas For Winter | Leisure
24. Try some new hobbies.
These could be outdoor, winter hobbies like skiing, snow-shoeing, or winter hiking. Or you could try a new indoor hobby! A few ideas: search local art schools in your city for all different beginner art classes, sign up for a new workout class, take a cooking class, or join a networking group.
25. Experiment with making fancy coffees or cocktails at home.
With endless resources and tutorials, Youtube or Pinterest will be your best friend for this. Maybe have a themed cocktail for a weekly happy hour that you perfect each month. As your skills improve, host a get-together to share your new skills.
26. Invest in some cozy loungewear.
With extra time spent at home, cozied up on the couch, why not invest in a couple of new luxurious-feeling lounge sets. There’s nothing better than putting on clean sweats after a long day of work, especially in the colder months.
27. Get a few plants to care for.
There are so many reasons that plants are good for your mental health. I have a whole post about this, which you can read here. And if you’re looking for tips on caring for your plants in the colder months, I also have a post about that!
Self care ideas sometimes looks like surrounding yourself with life. And green plants helps with that!
28. Decorate your home for the holidays/the seasons.
This can be a nice way to feel inspired in your space as the seasons change and the month’s pass. I’m a big advocate of “shopping your own home” and moving things around to breath new life into different rooms.
Self Care Ideas For Winter | Social Connection
29. Schedule a monthly dinner party with a few friends – take turns hosting.
Get the host to choose an appetizer, a main course, a side dish or two, and a dessert and assign everyone one of the recipes to make and bring along. An organized potluck of sorts that takes the pressure off of the host.
30. Sign up for a class to connect with new people.
Whether this is a workout class, a networking group, an art class or something else. Consider what it is you’ve been interested in trying and then research classes in your area!
31. Ask for support.
Sometimes the idea of meeting your own needs feels unmanageable. In fact, it can feel like another thing on the never ending to-do list that you just can’t find the mental energy to tackle. In these instances, know that it is okay to let those in your life know you’re struggling and need their support.
Whether this is asking them to regularly check-in with you, advocate for you with a professional (medical, mental health, etc.), or help you create your own self-care list. Asking for support takes courage and is an act of self-care in and of itself.
32. Get involved in seasonal community events.
The winter/holidays are typically filled with markets, festivals, and pop-up shops. Search for the ones happening near you and then make a plan to attend. This is a great way to support small businesses, stock up on a gifts for friends and family, and gives you something to do.
33. Connect with a support group if you’re going through something specific.
Some groups that are available virtually and in a lot of local communities: postpartum depression and anxiety, grief & loss, infertility, new moms.
Search “virtual support group + [whatever it is you desire support in” or “[your city] + support group + [whatever it is you desire support in]
Consider the non-profits in your area and reach out to see if they could use any volunteer support through the winter. Some organizations are looking for one-time volunteers; whereas, others are looking for more regular support. Consider what works for your schedule and then get connected.
35. Call a loved one or a friend.
Remember that others often struggle with self care ideas for winter months, too. If you’re feeling lonely, chances are someone else in your life is as well.