Every winter one out of four people personally experience feelings of gloom, affecting over 500,000 people in the U.S. Most of these gloomy feelings’- mimic symptoms of clinical depression. You know the feeling: You don’t want to do much of anything. You’re more tired than usual, maybe anxious or even moody. We find ourselves preferring to stay in with our leftovers on the sofa than going out to hang with our family or friends. It’s hard to leave the house, or even the bed for that matter, and when you do, your mood resembles the weather — cold, dark, and nasty.
Anxiety, sadness, irritability, social withdrawal, fatigue and lack of concentration are all common signs of a depression that’s related to changes in the seasons, with symptoms beginning and ending around the same time of each year. Usually starting around October and then magically ending by April with spring’s thaw.
The exact cause of this decline in energy is not known, but some scientists think that certain hormones trigger mood-related changes at certain times of the year especially during the winter, because there is less sunlight. Reduced exposure to sunlight can cause imbalances of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which affect our mood. During the winter, it’s important to take extra care of yourself to avoid that seasonal melancholy mood.
Here are some things you can do to help keep those “Winter blues” away:
- Get sunlight whenever possible. Stepping outside or letting in sunlight through the window will increase your body’s serotonin levels, which balances your mood. Sunlight will also help brighten up the room, helping keep you more awake.
- Don’t cut exercise out of your daily routine. Colder weather forces many people inside and can lead to excuses for not exercising. By exercising a few times, a week, you’ll help release endorphins, a hormone that gives you a natural high that in turn keeps you in a happier mood and energetic.
- Get plenty of rest. Sleeping seven to eight hours a night is needed to keep your mind and body regular.
- See a doctor if needed. If you experience changes in your mood, appetite, sleep habit or energy levels, visit a doctor to determine if you have SAD or if something else is going on.
Staff Blogger: Shynia Baldwin, CPRS, Peer Internship Program Coordinator
Shynia is a published author, crisis intervention Peer Specialist, and 2011’s BCDSS foster care “Parent of the Year” nominee. Shynia has over 30 years of experience working the mental health field. Through her work, she has encouraged a wide range of people from all walks of life to create their own version of healthy living.