Creating a wellness toolbox can help with winter blues

Feb. 13, 2020

Stressed out? Are the doldrums of winter bringing you down? Then consider creating your very own wellness toolbox to help.

Below, Lisa Bankard, employee wellbeing program manager for UCHealth, gives examples of what a wellness toolbox might include. 

Sneakers, a yoga mat, mittens

women in an exercise class. adding a workout bag is great when creating a wellness toolbox.
Photo: Getty Images.

Our bodies were made to move, and staying active helps relieve stress. Even mild exercise can release endorphins, the feel-good hormones that can help counteract the winter blues.

Find an activity you enjoy, whether that’s walking around the neighborhood, doing a simple yoga routine or sweating hard at a local spin class. Then, make it as easy as possible to do it.

“Make sure you have the right equipment to be able to exercise,” Bankard said. “If you like going to the gym, always have your gym bag packed so at a moment’s notice you can grab it and go.” 

A social calendar that works for you 

We’re wired to have relationships, and for many, we have events with coworkers, family and friends. But pay attention to which social events rejuvenate you.

“There’s such an emphasis on getting together with people,” Bankard said. “However, it may be overwhelming for some people. Be sure to consider what level of social connection works for you.”

That might mean turning down a party or cutting a family visit short, and making time to relax at home with a good book or bubble bath. 

Women with headphones on because music should be on your wellness toolbox list.
Photo: Getty Images.

A gratitude journal 

Writing down a few things you’re thankful for each day may seem like something small, but it actually has a big impact on how you feel. That positive impact on your emotional wellbeing benefits your physical health as well.

“There’s this nice chemical release when you focus on the positive, even for a few minutes,” Bankard said. “Expressing gratitude creates a shift in your beliefs and mindset, which transforms your actions and outcomes.” 

A relaxing soundtrack and scented candles 

Never underestimate the power of a good song or a fragrant scent. Both can give you a sense of calm and peace, and can help decrease stress.

A mindful coloring book 

Research has shown that coloring is not just for kids – it can have a profound impact on adults’ brains, too.

“It relaxes the part of the brain that’s activated when you’re stressed or frightened,” Bankard said. “And it helps you focus on the present and block out negative thoughts.”

If coloring isn’t your thing, try another type of art or take up a hobby that requires your full attention.

For Bankard, that’s horseback riding. “When I’m riding, I need to be fully present and not distracted,” Bankard said. “It’s so stress-relieving to be able to block out everything else.” 

an older person does yoga on a couch while a child does a headstand next to him
Photo: Getty Images.

Healthy snacks 

There are always lots of tasty, rich treats to choose from. And while it’s not bad to indulge, it’s important to eat healthfully most of the time.

“I work hard to make sure I always have healthy trail mix and a bottle of water with me,” Bankard said. “You want to make things convenient, easy to grab.”

What to leave out? Your phone

Cell phones are incredibly useful, but they can also increase stress. “Put your phone away while you’re walking,” Bankard said. “Avoid technology for an hour before bed, and for the first hour after you wake up. Give yourself time every day to not be connected.”

And apply these tips in creating a wellness toolbox all your own – and then be sure to use it.

About the author

Susan Cunningham lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys science nearly as much as writing: she’s traveled to the bottom of the ocean via submarine to observe life at hydrothermal vents, camped out on an island of birds to study tern behavior, and now spends time in an office writing and analyzing data. She blogs about writing and science at