Seasonal Changes and Mental Health
I’ve noticed a trend with some of my mental health symptoms. Why do I always experience depression when cold weather hits? A while back, I started researching why my symptoms of mental health worsen around a seasonal change. And to my surprise, many people experience this phenomena, it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD (the acronym is ironically fitting). Some symptoms include depression, loss of interest, low energy, problems with sleeping, feeling agitated, or difficulty concentrating. Many people experience symptoms associated to Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months because the loss of sunlight during that time. But Seasonal Affective Disorder is not exclusive to winter time. It’s a pattern of symptoms that change with the seasons. Living in Michigan, we know that cold weather is just around the corner. To combat my mental health symptoms during the cold weather months, I have developed a couple of self-care techniques that I personally use whenever the weather changes. Hopefully you find them as helpful as I have.
When my winter blues start, the first thing I like to do is make a list of activities that help me feel better. For my list, I usually like to order my helpful activates to how difficult I find the task being vs. how much it helps me cope when times get hard. For example, I love painting and it helps me express my emotions. Although I truly enjoy painting, it can be so hard to find the motivation to paint when I am not feeling well. So I might put painting in the medium or hard section of my list of activities. On the other hand, I find a good cup of tea and a moment of peace and quiet to be helpful too, but that isn’t as hard for me to accomplish so I put that in the easy section of my list. The reason why I label how hard my coping activities are, is because it’s hard decide how to help myself when I am in think thick of being depressed or having anxiety.
The second thing I do to help myself during the season change is, try to remind myself of the good things about the change in weather. I typically start feeling more depressed in the fall going into winter. So I try to get excited about the things that happen during those seasons. Like in fall, I love the leaves changing colors, Halloween, bonfires, and scary movies. During the winter, I love Christmas, spending time around a fire with hot cocoa, and buying presents for my friends and family. I think it’s important to have something to look forward to. It’s a reminder that the season change might not be as bad as it can feel and to be grateful for new things to come.
Another way I fight off some of my symptoms is to remember that I have gone through a tough time before. I have also gone though many of hard seasonal changes and I have survived them. Although the change in season may still be hard, I have the confidence to say that I will overcome my negative experiences with seasonal changes because I have done it before! I also talk to my supports about this too. My supports help me remember that sometimes I just have to give myself the experience of not being okay. I have to allow my symptoms to pass on their own, because I know one day, I will start feeling better.
I know that a sudden change in weather can often be daunting for many people who experience mental health symptoms, but there are some favors you can do for yourself to make it easier. You can build a list of activities you are able to do when you’re not feeling well, remind yourself of all the good that can come from change, and to remember that you’ve experienced these changes before and got through them. These are some of my best practices to make myself feel better about an upcoming seasonal change. What helps gets you through a difficult time? I would start thinking of this now as the cold weather will blow in before you know it.