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HEALTHY LIVING: 5 mental health tips for this winter from a licensed clinical social worker

Sarah Jones is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who supervises other social workers at the Hospital of Central Connecticut and Midstate Medical Center. Jones has also been facilitating staff support groups since COVID-19 hit back in March.

“My job is to genuinely connect with people to help them to either realize for the first time or remember that they matter” said Jones.

1. Know what to expect 

Jones said that your opinion on Connecticut weather during the winter can impact your overall perception of these upcoming months.

She included that, regardless of whether you enjoy the colder weather or not, you should anticipate that this winter will be different than others.

“I think you can expect to experience feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, and at times probably a general sense of disconnect” Jones said of the winter season.

She added, “If you’re someone who struggles during the winter months already, I imagine you will probably experience the feelings and emotions that you normally do during this time of year but on a slightly more intense level.”

Jones said that the good news is that any negative feelings you may experience are common, temporary, and most importantly, treatable. 

2. How to cope

Coping mechanisms are strategies often utilized to lessen mental strain or anguish.

Jones has a very straightforward go-to line when it comes to coping mechanisms — do whatever makes you feel the best, or the least bad, as often as you can.

“There is no “wrong” way to feel right now. Similarly, there is no “right” way to cope” said Jones. 

Jones said the biggest piece of advice she can offer for these next few months is for people to let their feelings out.

“Talk about how you’re feeling. Journal about it. Draw it. Do literally anything other than holding your emotions or thoughts bottled up inside” Jones added.

3. Use your senses

Jones recommends deep breathing as a strategy for managing stress and anxiety.

“During periods of anxiety or heightened stress, our minds and bodies like to speed up and take us out of ourselves” said Jones.

She also recommends using your senses to help stay grounded.

Jones said that touching something different is all about “utilizing sensory changes to ground ourselves.”

She also recommended keeping pleasant aromas on hand in places where you spend most of your time.

Jones advises patients to take frequent walks to get endorphins pumping.

“If you’re moving, you’re winning!” said Jones.

4. Give yourself permission to laugh

Laughing is another way to release endorphins and foster feelings of joy.

Jones said, “This can be a tough one, especially during times like these...but the key here is to find the funny where you can.”

Jones added that laughter can reduce feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety.

5. Be compassionate 

Self-compassion is key to validating our own feelings.

“Show yourself the same compassion you show to others! If you take nothing else away from here, I want you to remember this one...” said Jones.

Jones said this step takes practice and isn’t necessarily second nature for most people.

Jones said, while we can be extremely good at giving our loved ones the permission they need to feel their feelings, “We’re not so good at giving the same permissions and encouragement to ourselves.”

Jones recommends reciting a mantra to yourself that encourages you to acknowledge your feelings and self-worth. 

For more information on CT’s mental health resources, visit: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Pages/Public-Health-Resources/Mental-Health-Resources. 


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