Woman sitting by the window with a book and hot drink

Eight winter stress solutions to help you feel better

Tackle stress in the colder months

7 minutes

Experts in wellbeing share their easy, affordable winter stress relief tips to help you manage everything from pre-holiday work deadlines to Christmas with the in-laws.

  • The stress-relieving effect of getting cosy
  • Embracing winter daylight and exercise
  • The importance of taking time for yourself
Writing for LV= life insurance, Sarah Graham (@SarahGraham7) explores the simple techniques you can use to help keep your cool alongside gloomy weather and frenetic festivities.

It’s the season… to face up to stress

There's a lot to love about winter: the magic of Christmas with the little ones, the steady supply of mince pies and mulled wine, and cozy nights in with the latest boxset.

But it's not without its stresses. Shorter, darker and colder days see both your mood and motivation dip, so keeping up with normal routines can feel like a struggle. For the 6% of the UK population affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD – a seasonal form of depression), even functioning normally can seem impossible. If you do suffer from SAD, talk to your GP about ways you can tackle it. Here are our top eight ways to beat winter stress.

Get cosy

1. Make your home snug and inviting

‘The building blocks to wellbeing – nature/environment, movement, nutrition, rest/play, and social connection – remain the same year round, but our self-care practices are most effective when tailored to the seasons,’ says chartered psychologist and health coach Suzy Reading (@SuzyReading).

‘Create a home environment that matches your mood by enjoying snuggly throws and lighting scented candles,’ she suggests. This creates the perfect cosy environment for relaxing sofa-based  activities, such as knitting – ‘hygge’ in your own home. [1]

2. Nourish your body with warm, comforting food and drinks

Enjoy the warmth created by cooking stews, soups and pies together with family and friends,’ recommends Suzy. There's also evidence that a hot mug of black or green tea can help to reduce stress, as well as heating you up on a cold day. [2]

Embrace winter daylight and exercise

3. Find the time to talk and walk

We know the days are colder and darker, so make the most of those brief daylight hours by wrapping up warm for a brisk run or short walk around the park. If you're pressed for time, why not make the most of your lunch break by walking and talking with a friend or colleague?

‘Chatting things through with a trusted friend is a great way to offload stress,’ says Chartered Psychologist Dr George Fieldman.

‘More than 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, moving around at a pace that means you can still talk to someone, is one relaxing thing that I always recommend,’ adds Linda.

4. Create your own daylight

If you struggle to get enough daylight during  the winter, taking a vitamin D supplement and using light therapy in your home and work environments can help to boost your mood [3]. Clinical Psychologist and Telegraph columnist Linda Blair (@LindaBlairPsych) also recommends waking up to a light alarm clock, which simulates the natural sunrise.

5. Enjoy exercise indoors and at night

While it's great to get outside for brief periods during the winter, Suzy says: ‘Make sure you've got exercise options that appeal regardless of the weather. It's a perfect time of year to try hot yoga or indoor classes.’

But Suzy does recommend heading out at night for a spot of stargazing, which, she says, ‘taps into the mood-boosting effects of nature and stress boosting effects of mindfulness.’

Embrace the outdoors, even on a chilly day

Make time for yourself

6. Relax with colour visualisation or breathing exercises

‘When the days get shorter and darker, find time for a quick colour visualisation meditation at a regular time every day,’ suggests James Langton, Editor of Less-Stress London (@LessStressLDN). ‘Spend five or ten minutes sitting quietly, allowing your mind to visualise some beautiful bright colours such as gold, violet, or sky blue. Calm your mind by breathing slowly whilst imagining a bright, sunny day.’

Similarly, Linda recommends starting your morning with three minutes of breathing exercises before you get out of bed.

‘Nobody likes to leap out of bed when it's cold. Sit up, breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for the same amount of time, and then exhale through your mouth for another four seconds,’ she recommends. ‘20 of those is approximately three minutes, and it sets up your neurochemistry for maximum attention and minimum stress, so you start each day the best way you can.’

7. Enjoy warming relaxation rituals

We all know the stress-relieving benefits that starting or finishing the day with a warm bath or shower can have. If you're feeling especially stressed out, Linda suggests maximising the relaxation by making a special ritual of your soak.

‘Choose a time when you can take as long as feels comfortable for you – and use cues to signal that this is your detox time. You could use a particular soap, flannel or towel, have a particular playlist of relaxing music, or use the scent of lavender to add to your relaxation,’ she says.

‘When you're ready to get out of a bath, spend a couple of seconds imagining yourself releasing all the energies and stresses that don't serve you anymore, and letting them drain away with the old bath water,’ adds self-care coach Eve Menezes Cuningham, author of 365 Ways to Feel Better. ‘This can be a great way to let go.’

8. Make time for play and social connections

Finally, don't forget to have fun! Particularly around Christmas, it's easy to focus on keeping everyone else happy, but you deserve fun and social connection too. Suzy suggests indoor games, films, or going to the theatre with friends. Whatever else the winter has in store, don't let stress leave you out in the cold.


[1] DITTRICH, LISA R, 2001.KNITTING, Academic Medicinehttps://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/fulltext/2001/07000/knitting.4.aspx

[2] Unno K, Yamada H, Iguchi K, Ishida H, Iwao Y, Morita A, Nakamura Y, 2017.Anti-stress Effect of Green Tea with Lowered Caffeine on Humans: A Pilot Study. National Center for Biotechnology Information Support Center, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28566632.

[3] Lam RW, Levitt AJ, Levitan RD, Enns MW, Morehouse R, Michalak EE, Tam EM, 2006. The Can-SAD study: a randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of light therapy and fluoxetine in patients with winter seasonal affective disorder. National Center for Biotechnology Information Support Center, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16648320