Every year, winter creates greater challenges, it brings cold, wet and dark days and plunges temperatures, blustery winds, and lots of snow. People stay inside their homes mostly which means there is less social interaction. As the temperature drops and days get shorter, we feel a change in sleep and appetite. Feeling sloppy and weak is also very common.
Studies show that extreme weather changes can negatively affect mental health. While some people embrace the wintry weather, others struggle with their daily tasks or fall into many mental health issues. It’s important to be mindful of how winter weather can affect your mental health and be prepared for it.
Changes to activities and routines can lead to stress and sadness, including those due to health restrictions and public health measures. Winter season affects mental health in different ways such as stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.
Stress due to change in season and staying at home have long-term negative effects on mental health and decrease ability to cope with day-to-day challenges. Another problem that we have to deal with during this season is burnout which can cause fatigue and reduced immune function, causing someone to feel tired and frequently sick. It can also negatively impact a person’s attention span, concentration, and memory.
Research found that anxiety is also common in this season. Anxiety can cause headaches, dizziness, fainting, nausea, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, trembling, tearfulness, sweating, and other physical effects of fear and panic.
Seasonal depression is a common problem faced by many people during this season. Depression can cause a significant loss of energy and motivation. It might cause a person to eat or sleep much more than usual, or much less. It can also cause suicidal thoughts.
Reasons people experience mental health issues in winter
Lack of sunlight: Evidence shows that a lack of sunlight can cause a vitamin D deficiency in some people.
Decreased exercise: More time indoors due to weather.
Financial concerns: Holiday expenses are overwhelming for many people. The constant stress and worry over finances can have a significant toll.
Family obligations: Spending time with each person, arranging schedules, and trying to make everyone happy can be overwhelming.
Eating habits: Cool weather usually means more comfort food. Treats, baking, and sweet dishes are more available. While it may be enjoyable, some people find that it can lead to lower energy and be harmful to their physical and mental health.
Isolation: Isolation can lead to significant strain.
Alcohol and substance use: The consumption of alcohol and other substances tends to rise during the holidays, which can inhibit good decisions, increase the impact of mental health problems.
Work schedules: Hectic work schedules, especially when there are fewer hours of daylight and the weather is colder, can lead to stress and burnout.
How to take care of your mental health
Good mental health is critical for our overall well-being. It allows us to be present not just for ourselves and our responsibilities, but for others too. Here are some areas and activities to consider.
· Communication: Talk to your inner circle, approach people to whom you can confide in.
· Distraction: Practice yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques, listen to music.
· Acceptance: Try to accept your current situation, strongly believing that “this too shall pass”.
· Take up a new hobby.
· Take a break.
· Say ‘NO’ to 'temporary reliefs': No alcohol, no smoking.
· Keep yourself Active: Take a good walk.
· Adequate sleep
· Eat a healthy & balanced diet: A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
· Stay positive: Stay away from the negative environment - there is always a solution for every clear and positive mind.
· Get some sunlight: Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.
· Keep warm: If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your GP for medical help. Being cold makes you more depressed. It's also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half.
· Take warm or hot drinks and hot food.
· See your friends and family: It's been seen that socializing is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while.
· Seek help: If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.
How you can support others
· Learn about mental health.
· Learn the signs of stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression, and their causes and effects.
· Call for professional help if needed.
· Connected with family and friends.
· Be willing to listen.
· Be kind and inclusive.
· Take care of yourself.
· Observe your own stress levels and consider your own susceptibility to burnout, anxiety, and depression.
A lot of people start to feel down when the weather begins to change during this season. Winter can feel so long resulting in poor winter mental health. Try to cheer up and do your best to get rid of these negative mental health issues.