According to various research studies, seasonal depression is very common in Estonia due to the long, dark and harsh winters. In the depths of winter the days are really short and we rarely see the sun, not to mention the freezing temperatures that can drop as low as -30° C. It’s no wonder people living here get sad and tired! Luckily, during my 20+ years of having to cope with Estonian winters, I’ve learnt a few tricks to make them more bearable.
1. Get your vitamins
One of the mains reasons we get so sad and tired during winter is vitamin deficiency. Firstly, we don’t produce nearly as much vitamin D as we need because of a lack of sunshine. One solution is to take a trip to a warmer country, but many of us don’t have this possibility. Another option is to occasionally visit a sunbed, but this comes with health risks, plus a lot of people tend to overdo it and end up looking like grilled chickens.
Vitamin D of course isn’t the only vitamin we have a shortage of. During winter the availability of many fruits and vegetables is limited, and the ones that are available often taste like plastic (have you ever tried those sad reddish rocks they call tomatoes?). Long story short – it’s important that you get your vitamins somehow, whether from tasteless fruit or from a jar. Just make sure you get them!
Photo credit: J. Triepke
2. Engage in a social hobby
In summer Estonians literally live in the nature and spend all their free time outside, but as soon as the days get shorter, they turn into couch potatoes. It’s not unusual for people to get home from work, cook dinner and spend the rest of the evening in front of the TV or online. And this happens every single night! Instead of becoming antisocial when the weather gets depressing, it’s a great idea to include a social hobby in your routine – something that gets you out of the house and involves other people. Whether you do sports, join a book club or organise weekly dinners with friends, it’s important for your health to stay social. Plus, a regular hobby gives you something to look forward to each week!
Photo credit: Jeremy Wilburn
3. Attend events
This is pretty much an extension of the previous point, but it’s worth emphasising on its own. Tonnes of cool events actually happen in the “off season”. In the beginning of November a selection of Tallinn’s best restaurants offer set lunch and dinner menus at amazing prices as part of Tallinn Restaurant Week. Then there’s the Black Nights Film Festival (aka PÖFF), which is the highlight of autumn in Estonia. Afterwards, all the magical Christmas events start happening: the Christmas Market, Christmas Jazz and various concerts and performances in churches and other venues. Then we reach January, which brings me to my next point…
Photo credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar
4. Go on a trip
In my opinion, January is the most depressing month of the year. Christmas and New Year’s Eve have passed in the blink of an eye and we’re left with nothing else to look forward to besides summer, which is still a good four or five months away. This makes January the best time to make a quick (or not so quick) escape! If your finances and schedule allow for it, I’d suggest taking a beach holiday so you can fill up on that much needed vitamin D. If, however, you can’t afford it or the beach really isn’t your thing, even a quick city break can make a difference. Once again, it gives you something to look forward to, especially if you book early! This way you can dream about it and make plans in the moments when you’re feeling down. Travelling also takes you out of your daily routine and makes you feel positive emotions.
Photo credit: dronepicr
5. Get cosy
This final tip is a little controversial, but as long as I make it a special occasion, it works for me. Basically, I recommend embracing winter and doing everything possible to get cosy. Light some candles, make a big cup of hot chocolate, curl up in a blanket and watch your favourite movie. Have a long bath with bubbles, a face mask, a pedicure – the works! Or a gaming marathon! We all need some me-time every once in a while, so why not make it special? There’s no better person to spend quality time with than yourself.
Photo credit: Andrea Goh
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Cover photo credit: jorma.