Winter blues season is out there for many parts of the world. Autumn is approaching and next to the Winter hits. When the days start to become shorter and the weather chillier, many people find themselves tired, with lack of energy and with a different mood. The fact is that seasons can affect our bodies in several ways and so our minds.
The Seasonal Active Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that appears when the seasons change, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and eventually going away during Spring and Summer. People that suffer from this condition experience depression during the change of the seasons, feeling better when the weather becomes brighter and warmer.
It is scientifically proved that mental illness, no matter the type, gets worse during the colder months when people feel the effects much more. While mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or Bipolar disorder are a year challenge, Autumn and Winter can turn mental illness harder to cope with. But how does the cold weather affect all kinds of mental issues?
Even though some people might find joy in the Winter season and all the consequences from it, snow, cold, outdoor snowy sports, this season inhibits mentally ill people from seeking out or accessing their most helpful coping skills. The fact that is darker outside also helps your vitamin D to reach low levels because of the lack of light your body is exposed to.
Vitamin D affects the organism in a way that can help lead to depression and fatigue. Studies suggest that taking Vitamin D in the darker months can help you cope with the tiredness and lift up your mood.
Bipolar disorder is another mental disorder that can be boosted by weather conditions. Both types I and II of bipolar disorder are characterized by two mood patterns: manic episodes and depressive episodes. The change of seasons can impact people with bipolar in multiple ways, and influence the occurrences of episodes. The lack of light in the human body causes disruption in sleep cycles, decreased and depressed mood, which can help to exacerbate manic and depressive symptoms.
Anxiety disorders are also a year-round challenge. However, with the approach of new seasons, it might easily fluctuate. Winter can be especially challenging for anxiety: people with it experience more irritability, changes in sleep cycles, drastic changes in the mood or feelings. Easing the transition between seasons is often difficult. Therefore, using coping skills and personal strategies to stop some panic attacks and bigger anxiety feelings might be the thing to do.
Holidays are for some individual’s synonym of joy and a nightmare for others. It is diagnosed that 64 percent of people with a mental illness feel their symptoms become worse during the holiday season. Peer pressure, big family gatherings and the nostalgia of Winter and especially Christmas raise the statistics of people struggling with mental illness. For the majority of the individuals suffering from it, it is hard to cope and solve the problem within themselves. The exterior factors, for example, family gatherings, make it worse to handle. What is recommendable by specialists is to never abandon the strategies used to calm down and alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. In case of doubt, visiting a specialist is an important step to take to help to solve whatever the problem is.
Raising your awareness around on the mental health issue and learning how the seasons can affect you can make the difference in how hard the Winter hits you. Even if you love the snowy months, Winter sports – plus Champions League, NFL season and the Breeders Cup races – remember that less sun and limited time outdoors can impact your mental health.
Those who have mental health issues should act more cautious and take proactive steps to ease the symptoms before they become overwhelming.
Writer: Inês Marinho