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As colorful leaves fall from trees and the air gets cold enough for thicker layers, autumn is turning to winter. Our bodies can feel the transition. Winter is a challenging season for many, and if you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, you may be wondering how much the winter season will compound pandemic-related stress. How can we respond to the season’s change, and all that it may bring? To get a handle on our current circumstances, let’s use our five senses as prescribed in a Dialectical Behavior Therapy approach.

  • See: Open your eyes. Look up (literally, right now). Look around you instead of at your device. Sometimes, seeing something in the physical world can change our outlook. What do you really see? Maybe it’s a clear or cloudy sky, a tree in transition, or a familiar view. When I look out at the trees from my home office every day, I’m appreciative of how much the season can change in a day or a week.

  • Hear: What can you listen to in the coming season to lift your mood? Maybe start a new podcast or try that audiobook you’ve been meaning to listen to. When you walk outside, notice the sounds that emerge in the season’s change. A song you like to listen to as the weather gets colder can warm you up emotionally.

  • Touch: Hold something that reminds you of positive things about the season. It could be a warm beverage, a sentimental garment, or the hand/paw of someone you trust within your pandemic pod. Sometimes wearing that item or having that support in arm’s reach can remind you of things to look forward to.

  • Smell: Perhaps you like the seasonal scents of candles, incense, or fragrances. If so, consider allowing your sense of smell to transport you to a time and place more relaxing and less stressful than the here and now. Taking a break from the day-to-day with a refreshing or nostalgic smell isn’t unhealthy escapism, but a means to recharge and keep moving through tough times.

  • Taste: Although tricky for people who are managing disordered eating, consider chewing or drinking something that brings you relaxation. A piece of gum with a refreshing flavor, hot tea, or a glass of cold water might restore your emotional and mental senses. You could take your time to appreciate a piece of hard candy. Flavors that soothe the taste buds can help chase away seasonal discomfort.


Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.

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