What to do if winters affect your energy and mental health?

December 27, 2021

Do you feel gloomy when it gets colder? Or maybe you yearnnn for the sun on winter mornings, but the weather is oh so dampp!! And you hate it. Not just the weather but at times your life too. This is a typical symptom of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What is seasonal affective disorder?

It is a mental health disorder or majorly a form of depression that usually occurs at the same time every year in the winter season. The symptoms generally start manifesting during the late fall or early winter and start fading away as spring or summer season approaches.

Although less likely, SAD can also affect people in the summer season.

Fortunately, like other diseases, seasonal affective disorder can be treated. If you are struggling with the holiday season just like I did; look out for the signs and symptoms and reach out. Because it is better late than never!

So we know that your go to Google symptoms page is your first go to. But let’s not. To figure out if you have seasonal affective depression, just speak with a mental health counsellor. On the heyy, app it takes 5 minutes to do a self assessment to figure out if you really should speak to one – and better yet, you can just start chatting with a heyy Helper on the app.  

 

So what causes seasonal depression

Experts say, the specific cause of seasonal affective disorder is still not known but there are a few factors that trigger the depressive tendencies.

One of the major factors is reduced exposure to sunlight in winters, which in turn affects our body clock. The lesser the sunlight, the less will be the secretion of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical which regulates our mood basically. Drop in happy hormones can be a major cause for SAD.

Changed season can also dip melatonin levels; it is another brain chemical which regulates our sleep schedule. Reduced melatonin can play with our sleep cycle. Genetics is another factor that can trigger seasonal depression.

Can you relate to this? I hope not, but if yes- try doing these little things on your end to make your heart feel a little lighter and brighter.

How can you overcome seasonal depression 

Image source - https://www.instagram.com/p/CU5UNorN6m_/

Image source – https://www.instagram.com/p/CU5UNorN6m_/

Nature and sunlight

Since reduced exposure to sunlight is a known trigger for the illness, go sit out in the sun. Sunlight has abundant vitamin D and this vitamin helps in the secretion of happy hormones.

What can you do? Just get 10- 15 minutes out in the sun everyday, or for as long as it makes you feel less wintry. Gardening also helps you know. Just bend over your plants a little, plough the soil and rattle around. Feel the sun on your back, whisper words of encouragement to your plants. Quite sure that will make you feel better. 

Move your body

Try and spare some time for light exercises or yoga in the sun. If you feel cold outside, you can get a light therapy box, keep it in your room and do simple yoga, meditation or breathing  exercises indoors. Any type of physical activity positively impacts your mood and energy levels. 

Light therapy and talk therapy

Researchers recommend 30-minute exposure to light therapy lamps in a day to SAD patients. Since it is difficult to maintain adequate sun exposure, the lamps do not guarantee cure for SAD but significantly reduce and suppress sadness. It makes you feel better about life and yourself. 

Ummm ok. What is light therapy?

Light therapy has been a thing to treat SAD since the 1980s. Under this therapy, patients are exposed to a bright light box for 30-40 minutes, indirectly, every morning to compensate for the reduced exposure in the darker months. Your doctor might suggest this, depending on the extent and severity of the illness.

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is another way to treat SAD. As the term suggests, the patients are put under weekly talk sessions where the aim is to replace dark negative thoughts with positive ones. 

Eating a vitamin D rich diet

Vitamin D is known to increase serotonin levels, or the happy hormones. Try inculcating foods such as fatty fish, tuna, salmon, oranges, soy milk etc in your diet. This will help your mind and body feel better and aligned.

Aromatherapy

Essential oils are known for therapeutic purposes. They might help in potentially reducing the symptoms of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders etc. In fact there are essential oils known to induce good and healthy sleep.

‘Me’ time

It is okay to say no to things you don’t feel like doing, or meeting someone, or attending holiday parties, or anything for that matter. It is important to have time for yourself. You can utilize the time by doing the things you like such as pursuing a hobby, or journaling. Journaling is quite effective when dealing with mental health issues; it helps in figuring out how you feel even when you don’t know what is bothering you.

Reach out and open up

If you are relating to the symptoms of SAD, you should reach out to your loved ones and open up about what is bothering you and your feelings. If the symptoms are severely impacting your daily life and activities, you SHOULD reach out to a medical professional to discuss.

We understand that there is still a lot of hush hush, a lot of stigma around speaking up about what you are feeling. But, heyy is a safe, secure and confidential space, where you can freely open up and talk to our heyy Helpers.

 

 

References:

  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
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