It’s that time again. The leaves are falling. The days are becoming shorter. The weather is growing colder. Here it is; the season of change.
This time of year may be exciting for some; warm baths, pumpkin-spiced everything, cosying up by the fire and the fun of Christmas. However, for many of us, as we add more layers to our clothing, we also add layers of anxiety and distress.
If your mental health is affected by seasonal change, you are not alone. It is common that as daylight slips away, so does a lot of our emotional wellbeing.
While many of us recognise mild forms of seasonal blues that we feel during the autumn and winter months, some experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also commonly known as seasonal depression. This is unsurprisingly found most commonly in regions farther from the equator (in cooler climates).
Symptoms of seasonal depression include:
- Prolonged low mood
- Low energy and irritability
- Body weight changes
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness
Remember, it’s normal to experience days when you just feel “down”. But if you notice that those feelings are continuing for days at a time with no motivation to do the things that you usually enjoy, it may be a good time to seek support.
But for those of you who catch yourself fondly reminiscing of the warmer months and feel that you could benefit from some advice on how to cope with your winter blues – here are some top tips to help you get through it!
If you miss the sunshine…
… you’re not alone!
Lack of sunlight is one of the most common difficulties people experience as the seasons transition from warm to cold. As the seasons change, so does our exposure to vitamin D.
For optimum health we need to make sure we are receiving enough all year round. This is because vitamin D plays a vital role in activating the so-called happy hormone, serotonin. If you feel low or irritable, it could be a sign that you are deficient in vitamin D.
- Go outside
Wherever possible, spend time in the natural daylight. This can include going for a daily walk or getting your daily coffee.
- Sit by a window
This could be applicable for a number of activities, such as working or reading by a window.
- Visit a greenhouse or conservatory
If the cold, wet weather is putting you off spending time outside, this is a great compromise!
- Consider using Light Box Therapy
This involves using a special lamp called a light box for around thirty minutes to an hour each morning. This will simulate the sunlight that you’re missing during the darker winter months, increasing the production of serotonin whilst also decreasing the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
If you miss being active…
… it’s time to find enjoyable ways to get out and move your body during the cold-weather months! Don’t just huddle up by the fireplace. Get moving to start feeling your best!
- Find a fun activity
As the seasons change, it may be time to explore new outdoor activities such as ice skating, sledding or hiking.
- Go for a walk in a shopping centre
If the cold is too much to bear, try finding indoor places to help you remain active such as a shopping centre.
- Workout at home
Exercising at home can be convenient AND fun! Even if you don’t have a home gym, you can find some free workout videos on YouTube.
- Bundle up and walk around the neighbourhood
Put on your thickest coat and enjoy the cold, brisk wind on your face. If you’re a dog person but unfortunately don’t have a dog, you could even ask your neighbour to take their furry friends for a walk to lighten your mood.
- Explore festivals, markets or other outdoor events in your area
This time of year has plenty to offer, like Christmas markets and food festivals. Be sure to take advantage of them!
If you miss being social…
…plan ahead and organise activities to fill that social calendar!
Many of us will sympathise with the cold-weather hibernation struggle. As nice as it is to be wrapped up on the sofa watching an entire season of a Netflix show, this can be a recipe for social isolation.
Socialising plays a huge role in our health and wellbeing. It brings us pleasure, helps us stay active and fights off feelings of withdrawal or isolation. However, many of us fail to fulfil our social needs in the cold days of winter.
- Stay connected and socialise with friends and family
Keep it simple. Pick a day each week to meet for coffee, or just enjoy one hour each week catching up with them. A simple call or text will work just as well!
- Take a class or start a new hobby
Classes can offer a great escape during the cold months, whether it’s cooking, dancing or any other kind of class. Enrolling in a class is a great way of meeting new people and gaining new friends.
- Get involved
Getting involved in your local community is a great way of fulfilling your social needs. Lend a helping hand. Consider what you’re passionate about and find a local organisation that could use your talents and helpful hands.
Try your best to have perspective. This may be hard when you’re feeling down, but it is important. Remember, seasons change and transitions come and go. This doesn’t mean it will be easy but it won’t last forever.
Autumn will come and go, as will winter. And spring will begin to peek its head out again, as will summer. And then we get to do it all over again, maybe this time with a bit more understanding, open-mindedness and practice.
If you need any help managing any issues mentioned in this article, reach out to one of our life coaching experts by contacting us here at Ceed!