This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Helping Teens Handle Winter Blues.
Helping Teens Handle Winter Blues
Many folks do not like winter. That is okay. However, at times the not-like-winter actually becomes more than that. It becomes winter blues.
The official name for Winter blues is “seasonal affective disorder.” But sometimes it is not a full disorder, it’s just a “who likes winter?” mindset.
The winter is cold and the days are short. The sky is gray most of the time and seems to just hover six inches above our heads (especially in the mid-Atlantic, where we live).
Closed in and gray. That makes it hard to have the energy to do your best at homeschooling. With that in mind, here are some ideas for you from real life experiences and trainings I have had as a mental health counselor. In my career, I have worked with number of homeschool families and clients who have the winter blues. (It is probably more common than you think.)
What Are The Winter Blues?
Have you noticed that you and or your teens are feeling kind of down? Where your body feels lethargic, like you have to almost carry yourself around or drag yourself from place to place? It would be easy to just sit on the couch and watch YouTubes all day long.
Teenagers may feel like hibernating. That is, they might want to just sleep all day long. Unfortunately this messes up their biorhythms. Then they stay awake later and later into the night. And that just becomes this vicious cycle of everything being off rhythm…which actually adds to that lethargic and winter blues feeling.
Many people will also experience carb cravings. As if your body is saying, I need ice cream and chips all day long. I need it. I need it. However, what your body (or your teen’s body) is trying to say is that it is running low on serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is in charge of much of our energy, concentration and our good moods.
Our serotonin will often dip during the wintertime. That is related in part to a lack of vitamin D because there is not enough sunshine for the lifestyles that we live. Therefore, we have to do some things to help our serotonin along.
Here are some things we can do for helping teens handle winter blues (and anyone else, for that matter).
Ways To Beat The Winter Blues
There are several ways to help make the winter blues get better.
Get Full Spectrum Lamp or Light Bulbs
The first thing is really practical, yet easy to miss. Get a full spectrum lamp or a few full spectrum light bulbs. Put them in any lamp that is sitting around the house.
These are lights that have all of the light rays except for the dangerous ones. It is not the kind that gives you a sunburn, but you are getting a mimicking of sunlight from this light bulb.
If you get one of these lamps or light bulbs in one of the family lamps and put it within three or four feet of your teen while leaving it on for about fifteen minutes as they do their schoolwork, on most days, they will usually start feeling a bit better after a while.
However some teens don’t like that much intensity of light around them. In this case, just stick the light in a corner of a room and leave it on for about an hour during the day. You will be able to get enough light to raise energy levels. This helps with focus and with those carb cravings.
God made light to be a therapeutic thing for us, and when we can’t have it from His natural sun, get these fancy little lights that don’t cost all that much from the hardware store or the grocery store or simply order one.
Another thing you can do for helping teens handle winter blues is to take a walk. Even though it is cold outside in the wintertime, if you can get outside and move your bodies you’ll be able to walk off daily stress hormones that burn off stress which increases a neurotransmitter called dopamine.
Dopamine can work together with serotonin with the full spectrum light to significantly improve mood and specific direct focus on the things teens need to pay attention to.
But sometimes you just aren’t able to get outside and go for that walk. When that happens, find YouTube videos with exercise. In fact, 7 Sisters has a fitness curriculum with exercise videos, taking kids through safe and healthy physical activity. It doesn’t particularly matter what the movement is; it just needs to be some form of movement.
However, according to the research at the University of California, if you go outside and have trees around you, simply seeing the trees will increase some of the neural activity that improves mood. A bare tree in the wintertime is somehow good for mood.
Eat Healthy Food
Another thing for helping teens handle winter blues is eating healthy food. Healthy foods mean good proteins, colorful fruits and vegetables because good protein and colorful food have micronutrients that work together to literally make those neurotransmitters work.
Teens are short on these micronutrients, which are like the Legos you snap together to make a neurotransmitter. And the most important one is serotonin.
And teens learn about this in a 7 Sisters homeschool health curriculum because we want them to know they are not just eating healthy food because mom said so. There is really a neurological reason to eat healthy foods besides all the obvious health benefits of it.
Monitor Sleep Patterns
Monitoring and watching sleep patterns can be difficult because it becomes an active will sort of activity. A lot of times, teenagers in the wintertime want to sleep and sleep and then sleep some more. And, true, teenagers do need a lot of sleep, and they probably need a little extra sleep in the wintertime.
But more than 10 hours is going to overdose them with melatonin, which is the hormone that keeps them asleep while they’re sleeping. This will cause them to feel groggy which can lead to depressive kinds of feelings. Literally, over 10 hours becomes toxic.
Somehow, you have to work out a deal with your teen that 10 hours is the max. They can sleep in every once in a while, like once a week perhaps, because they’re teenagers, and they deserve to sleep in one day. They shouldn’t go under seven hours very often, but ten hours should be the max.
If they mix up their day and night schedule, you can help them slowly get back to normal so that they are sleeping during the night and awake while the sun is up.
Have them up and awake in the hours when the sun is up, which is really just the way the body needs things to happen because it does its healing hormones while they sleep and does it best in the dark. And similarly, they have other things their body needs to do while they’re awake
Get Them Laughing
One of the best things you can do is to get your teen laughing. To feel better, everybody needs some laughter in their lives. We know from scripture that a Mary heart does good like a medicine, and it really does.
Research shows when we laugh, our body releases endorphins and oxytocins that improve mood, but are actually good for our immune system. Isn’t that wild?
This means if you haven’t had a chance to laugh together, find something funny like movies or Netflix or YouTube videos or things you know will get good giggles out of each day.
You will find laughter is healthy for the body and soul, and a family that laughs together likes life better together.
Do Fun Stuff For School
Grab the curriculum that is boring you to tears and set it aside. Then take two weeks off that curriculum and, in its place, do fun things that count as school.
You can read a silly book like JIS and Wooster and do a study guide for it or even do some cinema study guides for literature learning. You can count those as books instead of the usual books and field and study guides.
Just mix things up or go on some unusual field trips, like a museum you haven’t been to in years or go drive to a different indoor state park or national park if there’s one nearby.
Changing the boring things up will cause a change in rhythm and when you get back to the rhythms, it is actually very healthy for the brain. It helps the brain to calibrate, reduces anxiety, and helps them feel better. So change things up on the academics and in the experiences for helping teens handle winter blues.
Helping Teens Handle Winter Blues
What are some ideas or ways to beat the winter blues that you found? Are there some fun things that you do to mix things up and make it fun? We would love to hear about it, so send us an email or throw something out in the 7 Sisters Homeschool Facebook group because we all learn together. You matter and we all appreciate you being there.
Join Vicki for some helpful tips on handling winter blues.
Thank you to Richie Soares with Homeschool and Humor for writing this blog post!
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HSHSP_343.mp3 (16:04, 19MB)