How not to be a hedgehog and shine brighter this winter.

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A three-minute read.

This time of year hits all of us differently. For some people Christmas is the bright light of winter while for others it’s a glaring spotlight on who or what we don’t have, or who we have to spend it with. And then there’s people like me who dread the entire season, yearning for long bright days and sun, glorious sun.

Over the years I’ve learnt how to have the Christmas I want but come the start of winter, I have to work at keeping my light bright, or at least not blown out. My mental load feels heavier as my need for the outdoors battles my love of a cosy sofa blanket and intense dislike of grey, wet dog walks.

If I’m not careful I retreat into a world of hedgehog, a sloth like hedgehog. Snuffling around for food at night while skipping meals and craving sleep in the day, I drag myself outside for dog walks.

Weariness, guilt and annoyance at myself weigh me down in equal measure. Because it’s never that bad. It’s usually quite nice. And so the story repeats, all winter long.

One of the social posts I’ve written for Christmas time introduces how not to be a hedgehog, or wellbeing plans to give their proper title. They really are more interesting and useful than they sound. We do have to find the energy to write them, which for me also requires opening my eyes, but they work.

So, please enjoy my take on five ways to not be a hedgehog this winter. I hope it gives you some ideas and energy to shine your light this winter, even if it’s just a nice ambient glow.

And do give us a follow on social media to see all our mental health messaging this winter:

Instagram:  @healthydorsetuk 
Facebook:   @Public Health Dorset
X:                @HealthyDorset


1. Places to get headspace

The countryside around me is perfect for getting some headspace. However, I can quickly become blind to the landscape with unhelpful thoughts filling my brain, so I always have the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique to hand. Five things I can see, four things I can feel, three I can hear, two I can smell and one I can taste. Trust me it works. This one minute video walks through the technique.


2. Plan for regular and interesting meals

I love food but hate cooking so this is one of the trickier wellbeing tips for me. I’m also one for skipping meals and going to bed at night only to realise I’m ravenous.

Eating regularly and enjoying our meals has a huge impact on our mood, so at least I can rationalise my low mood and I know what to do about it, even if I’m only as daring as making kale taste like crispy seaweed. Totally worth learning.


3. Think of family or friends to spend time with

Do I like my own company or do I wallow in the comfort of not having to make an effort? Probably a bit of both. When I made the big move to the west country, I made a few wrong turns in meeting people I could forge friendships with, but I kept going and found people I can just be me with.

I make myself do things now and then too, like a Christmas pub quiz next week. I hate quizzes but my friend caught me while in the middle of writing this, so ‘yes ok’ was easier than ‘no’ without an excuse to hand. I’ll try to spend the next week not telling myself I’ll hate it, because I might not.


4. Stay supported

Sometimes we need someone away from the situation, separate from our lives or just at the right time. Someone we can be honest with and not fear judgement, someone who listens, someone who in that moment is there for us.

I texted SHOUT to 85258 and it worked. That‘s all you need to remember. So if you’re in crisis, or like me not even sure what ‘in crisis’ meant, text SHOUT to 85258. I promise you’re not alone and it does make the world feel a little brighter. If texting isn’t your thing, call Connection on 0800 652 0190. They are both free, confidential and available 24 hours a day.


5. Do things for you

Now, this isn’t about doing the things my hedgehog-self enjoys but if you’re usually active, why not slump in front of a favourite film with a blanket and hot chocolate? Top tip, let the marshmallows melt under the squirty cream.  

For me it’s about being outside and I love sea and sand, even in horizontal rain. Me, the dogs, a flask of hot chocolate and plenty of towels. Perfect.