Winter Blues & Other Mental Health Woes

It’s now October and in some areas of the country, days of gray skies may now be more frequent. My sister lives in the greater Detroit area in Michigan, and all this last week she has complained about dark, rainy days. The rain stopped and she had 4 gray days in a row. That is typical weather for fall and winter in Michigan.  This time of year can make you feel blue and experience a loss of energy. Be aware that some people can be sad or depressed during low light days of winter.  It is called (SAD) Seasonal Affective Disorder. I wrote about my feelings of sadness and feeling lethargic when I lived in Tennessee and Michigan during the winter days of gray. In fact, that is one of the reasons I moved to Miami in my 20’s. I’m just so much happier in bright sunny Florida. 

 

 

 

There is a whole range of mental health problems that can affect someone to differing degrees. It’s essentially an illness. For the more serious of conditions, reading an article isn’t going to help unless it states you should see a specialist. If you think you’re seriously compromised in terms of your mental health, the best thing you can do is make an appointment with your primary physician to discuss your health and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. I would start with a physician to rule out any physical problems or drug side affects that could be affecting my outlook and behavior. Have you started any new medications?   

Maybe you just need to talk to someone about your problems. That being said, there are some tips which can help people feel a little better in the short term, or even better for a long time if you are down or have a condition which doesn’t usually require medication. First let’s look at SAD.

 

 

Light Therapy

 

If you think you have SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, read the classic book Winter Blues by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal for helpful information that defines the illness and offers solutions. When I lived in Michigan in the winter, I used full spectrum light bulbs. Light therapy gives me more energy.  It really makes a difference for me.  Just remember if you have a sunny fall or winter day, put on sunscreen and sunglasses and go outside for a little “sun therapy”.  It can make a difference in your mood and energy.

 

 

Winter Blues, S.A.D. by Dr. Norman Rosenthal

 

 

 

Diagnose The Condition Right Away

 

It’s hard. No one knows how you feel apart from you, not really. But on the flip side, you likely aren’t going to be a medical professional, meaning you can’t properly diagnose your problem. If you’re constantly worrying about things you know you shouldn’t be worried about, or afraid of social situations then it might be anxiety. If you’re up and down, one moment on a complete high and the next really down it could be bipolar. Then  bipolar disorder therapy can help you break free. The big one is depression, but it completely varies in terms of severity, so it’s hard to properly diagnose.  Think about how you feel and your actions. Make notes before you make an appointment, it’ll help the doctor diagnose you properly.

 

 

 

 

Change Your Diet

 

This is something you need to do right away, and you might be quite surprised by the results. For a start, kick the soda. Especially the stuff full of sugar. It spikes your sugar levels quickly, meaning you then come down off the sugar high feeling absolutely awful. Same with fruit juices. You see the theme right? Anything with high sugar content can be bad for your anxiety or depression. Coffee is another one, maybe the most obvious but in a weird way. If you drink too much it can make you feel on edge. It can stop you getting a good night’s sleep too. This is why diet versions of soda can also be bad. There’s no harm drinking coffee in moderation, but moderation really is the key word here. In short, avoid high sugar content foods and drinks. I know this is hard with all the holidays in the next few months, but try to make healthier choices in your diet. 

Adding Vitamin D to your diet in food or supplements is helpful during the winter.  Our bodies need vitamin D and during the summer get plenty from the sun.   Since sun exposure may be minimal during the winter months, the body’s vitamin D levels can dwindle. You might consider adding a vitamin D supplement during the winter and eating more vitamin D–rich foods, like fatty fish, egg yolks, some mushrooms, milk, and foods fortified with vitamin D. Try Greek yogurt with fruit to start the day. Tuna salad for lunch anyone?

 

 

 

 

Get Out There & Exercise

 

It’s the easiest advice to give, but for someone with depression or anxiety, it may be the hardest thing to do. It can start easy. Go for a walk. A nice long walk. You’ll feel better for it. It’s not only exercise, it’s seeing different scenery which can cheer you up. Studies show walking can help reduce anxiety, depression, and a negative mood. It can also boost self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal. Try not to stay cooped up in your home it’s not good for you in any way. Next step is to try some real exercise, join a gym perhaps? Or maybe a local sports team. Get out and about with friends, try new things to take your mind away from dwelling on what’s bad.  Walks, running, dancing, lifting weights, swimming – whatever makes you happy can be part of the plan. When you exercise, your body releases feel good chemicals that will make you happier and more energetic.

 

 

Monitor Screen Time

 

Much of our modern life revolves around technical devices with screens:  computers, phones, and TV. Countless hours are spent scrolling through your smart phone, staring at texts, typing, wandering the internet or watching movies.  Research has shown that too much screen time is related to depression. I’m not saying to give up our screens but cut back.  Even at work, get up often and move.  Remember sitting is the new smoking in terms of our health.

 

In Conclusion

 

Just remember to be talk to someone when you need to, exercise, eat healthy, and be social. Being around family and friends can boost your mood and help motivate you to do the things you enjoy. Ask a friend to go to the movies or grab a cup of coffee with a co-worker. Don’t forget to spend time with your loving furry family members!

 

 

 

This was a collaborative post but the opinions are my own.

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might like:

 

 

Winter Blues

 

 

 

7 Ways to Boost Your Winter Mood

 

 

 

 

Finding Healthy Ways to Express Emotion

 

 

 

Setting Healthy Goals

 

 

Your Comments Make Me Happy

 

 

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Carol

I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

5 thoughts to “Winter Blues & Other Mental Health Woes”

  1. You have a lot of good advice here, Carol. Someone just told me she could not move to Alaska because the days are too short there in winter. I hadn’t connected sugar and depression before. That’s interesting. I know your writing will help someone!

    1. I was watching a documentary about Alaska this week and it was shot in winter with almost 24 hours of darkness. It made me want to go in the fetal position thinking about it!

  2. Those are great ideas to combat depression and the blues caused by weather and other life’s events. Thank so much for stopping by my blog, your comment is greatly appreciated. Enjoy the weekend.

  3. Really good tips, Carol. I’m with your sister. I woke up at 7 and thought it must be 4 a.m., it was so dark. And when the time changes (I HATE the time change), we’ll go back to being dark at 5ish and I just want to shut down. All good ideas here.

    1. That my friend is why I left Michigan and moved back to Florida. I love Michigan spring and summer but I can’t live with all the darkness the rest of the year.

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