Wintertime and Mental Health

Seasonal Affective Disorder wintertime

The COVID-19 pandemic already has had a significant impact on the mental health of many. Isolation has led to rising rates of depression, the threat of the disease has led to rising rates of anxiety, and many are finding things they could cope easily with before the pandemic are no longer so easy to cope with. Medical and social support has plummeted off a cliff, and those with mental health issues are now having to deal with their symptoms alone. Those who are not yet diagnosed have been left hanging on the cliff edge, not knowing exactly what is wrong with them or how to deal with things when life gets overwhelming. The symptoms of bipolar, for example, can be particularly distressing when sufferers don’t know how to deal with them. With another Wisconsin winter right around the corner, another mental health threat looms – SAD. At this time of year, it is crucial that we all continue to take steps to safeguard our mental health.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that typically occurs during these dark winter months due to a decrease in social interaction, lower levels of sunlight, and increased levels of melatonin. Understandably, this calls for a time to improve your mental health. That said, SAD affects half a million people in the US every winter between September and April, peaking in December, January, and February. It used to be known informally as the “winter blues”, but research now shows that SAD is a mental health problem in itself. Sometimes those with SAD may turn to self-medication, in the form of either drugs or alcohol. This does not help and unfortunately, addictions and dependencies can develop which may cause a suffering individual to need assistance from a company similar to Arista Recovery or a local help center. This is why it can be important to seek out professional help in extreme circumstances. We may all feel a little low in the winter, but that can usually be treated with typical vitamin D supplements. SAD sufferers, however, can enter an almost overwhelming period of depression that only medical intervention can treat. Common treatments include intensive light therapy to boost serotonin levels, psychotherapy, antidepressants and vitamin D prescriptions. Some people might even add a product from somewhere like Organic CBD Nugs into their daily routine in order to help their mental health, if they do not feel able to go to the doctor and talk about their problems. There are also some lifestyle changes that can help, however.

Here are just a few practices that can help in developing resilience to the effects of winter on mental health:

  • Stay active and engage in regular exercise, preferably outdoors close to midday, to help reduce and prevent depression.
  • Connect with others, whether in person or virtually. Social connectedness positively impacts physical and mental health.
  • Bundle up and spend time outside to improve mood and self-esteem.
  • Prioritize and engage in self-care. This may include getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, and practicing mindfulness.

Read more about SAD prevalence, symptoms, causes, and treatments in this informational overview from Mental Health America of Wisconsin.

NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) also offers this quick guide to Wisconsin mental health resources, including crisis services, treatment programs, and statewide advocacy organizations.