As we return to school after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we soon realize that there is a long stretch of cold and dark days ahead of us. Our dreams of a white Christmas are on hold until next December and the dirty slushy roads feel more dreary than magical. In anticipation of what might be referred to as the winter blues, we can create a plan to build fun, connection, and play into our days!
What are the Winter Blues?
Less sunshine, colder temperatures, and shorter days can lead to depressive-like symptoms for people who may not normally experience depression. This might mean people are more irritable, sadder, and have less energy. This can make school feel exhausting and less enjoyable for staff and students! It’s not all bad news though. With a few intentional acts, we can keep those blues at bay until the sun is shining again!
Things like physical activity, connection with others, laughter, gratitude, and acts of kindness can lift the spirits of everyone and create a contagion of joy throughout the school! I don’t know about your districts, but we’ve been living through some seriously contagious viruses here (strep, flu, colds, covid, and more) – time to see if we can create a different kind of spread in the new year! The best way to keep the efforts steady and intentional is to plan ahead.
I met an elementary school principal last month who shared that she and her staff had decided to be strategic in bringing fun back into the school this year. They started with staff knowing that a joyful staff has the power to bring joy to the students! Their first step was creating monthly calendars full of fun (optional) activities. They included things like: pitch-ins, exercise classes after school, and even a staff wide snowball fight!!!! The results have been amazing. Stress levels are down, connection among staff is up, and students are noticing. I love this idea! While they chose to create their own calendars, you can also find some that are ready to go! Use these as inspiration or just as they are to get your months started!
Check out Action for Happiness for calendars like this:
Get random acts of kindness materials here including calendars (like below) and other free resources!
Another great way to lift spirits and have more fun is to designate days of the week to introducing new strategies for inspiring joy and healing! For example:
Mindful Monday – start each Monday with fun music as the students enter the building! Follow up with a school-wide mindful activity such as breathing exercises, journaling, or mindful movement!
Grati-Tuesday – ask every student and staff member to share a note of gratitude with someone else. It can be as simple as a post it note or a quick email! Explore gratitude activities each Tuesday.
Wellness Wednesday – try new exercises or nutritional snacks! Get outside and go for a wellness walk. Find fun ways to integrate healthy habits into your classroom.
Thoughtful Thursday – think of ways to support others on Thursdays. This could be a fundraiser or a letter writing campaign. It could be noticing someone in your school that might benefit from a simple kind gesture that allows them to feel seen and appreciated. Be creative!
Fun Friday – don’t forget to have fun!! Dance parties are my personal favorite way to celebrate the end of the week. Talk with your fine arts teachers and integrate games, art, reading, and music into your Fridays to release stress, build connection, and simply enjoy each other!
The winter blues can be a real downer; however, with some intentional planning, you can beat them! Remember the goal is to reduce not add stress. Keep it light and optional. Some people may love the idea of a staff wide snow ball fight, while others may choose to sit that one out but are happy to bring a dish for a pitch-in. Collaborate with your team so the responsibility doesn’t fall on one person. Most importantly, have fun, listen to your body, and take care of yourself. The sun will be shining again before you know it!
**If you, a colleague, or a student are experiencing depressive symptoms that go beyond just the winter blues, reach out to your counseling team for support. If you notice these symptoms interfering with daily life for more than a week or so, it may be time to ask for help.