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The Winter Blues

How To Deal With the Upcoming Stressors of the Holidays and Cold Weather

Article by Jessica Mordacq

Photography by Grey Grimm

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

Approaching the holiday season, it’s easy to fret over reuniting with family, preparing large meals and shopping for gifts, all while the days grow shorter and colder. Because so many people’s stress spikes during this time, Kendra Miguez, CEO and founder of Colorado Women’s Center, shares her tips on navigating end-of-the-year stressors.  

Navigating winter

Though Colorado boasts around 300 days of sunshine a year, for many, colder weather and less sunlight bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD, a type of depression that often worsens in winter months). While Kendra says around 4% of the population is diagnosed with SAD, closer to 20% feel some kind of mild winter blues. 

To deal with the coming of lower temperatures and shorter days, Kendra suggests sticking to a routine, prioritizing group outings and spending as much time outside as possible. For those who still feel short on vitamin D, she recommends bright light therapy. Brighter than regular light bulbs, bright light emulates sunshine, which halts the body’s melatonin production. This might make you feel less tired and help keep your circadian rhythm on track. 


Start preparing for the often inevitable higher stress of winter in the fall by getting into the habit of regular exercise, especially outside.

“Even if it’s the winter and dark out, if you’re moving in the elements, it will recreate a sense of what we get when we have sunshine,” Kendra says. Maximizing outdoor workouts, even when it’s cold out, is linked to lower stress levels. 

“There’s no such thing as bad weather,” Kendra adds, which she finds especially true in Colorado. With access to thousands of trails, Coloradoans love to strap on spikes for a snowy hike or swim laps in one of the state’s hot springs. 

Dealing with family 

Visiting relatives for the holidays often comes with lots of assumptions and emotions, so it’s helpful to prepare to put your own well-being first at family gatherings. Kendra recommends sitting with your expectations and noticing any discomfort you have around family members and certain situations you might encounter. Or identify excitement from potential conversations with those you feel safe with, “mentally sending love to everyone before you walk in the door,” Kendra says.

If you’re processing grief and loss of a loved one, which can become intense around this season, acknowledge your feelings and set boundaries, giving yourself permission to fully participate in the family function, or not. 

“You can miss a person and enjoy the holiday at the same time,” Kendra says, highlighting the importance of creating new traditions while celebrating the memory of someone who wants you to be happy.


Kendra notices that many people struggling with grief during the holidays work to lighten that feeling through charity. “When we help others, it alleviates so much of our pain and sadness,” Kendra says. “By bringing joy to someone else, we simultaneously feel it.” 

Plus, during the pandemic, we’ve missed several opportunities to enjoy the company of strangers and interact with our communities. Kendra says, “We were in isolation for so long, and we’re not meant to be apart from each other like that.”