Behavioral and Mental Health
Want to learn more about this at Kettering Health?
Winter days in the Midwest may appear short—you go to work when it’s dark, you go home from work when it’s dark—but they still somehow feel long and difficult.
The trifecta of cold temperatures, less sunlight, and harsh weather can become a recipe for life growing dark not only outside but inside as well. And for many, this stretch of the season becomes all the more difficult from the whiplash of going from the holiday season into a no-man’s-land of waiting for spring’s arrival.
Julie Manuel, LPCC, clinical program manager at Kettering Behavioral Medical Center, affirms how normal it is to feel the “winter woes” during this time of year. And she suggests these tips to stay positive during the winter months:
- Keep it light: Turn on bright lights, sit near a window, and leave your blinds open. If you experience a more severe low mood, consider light therapy.
- Stay consistent: Keep a consistent routine of sleep, exercise, and a well-balanced diet. Any these things can affect your emotions. Maintaining a rhythm helps your body with hormone production, digestion, and cycles necessary for getting good sleep.
- Get involved: Join a gym or a church group; have your friends over for a football game; host a gathering with your family; or plan some other fun activity that you can look forward to. Whatever you choose, the trick is to avoid isolating yourself.
- Gain perspective: Julie recommends remembering that feeling low during the winter, though difficult, is most often temporary. “As always, spring is coming,” Julie said. “These next few months may be dark, dreary, and cold, but there are ways to combat how you’re feeling.”
For some, the winter woes may feel more severe than a frustration with going to and leaving work when it’s dark. The winter woes may be more disruptive to your day-to-day life. If so, it may be seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is a form of depression that typically happens the same time each year, usually starting late fall and lasting through the winter months.
“We typically see this disorder because of the reduced amount of sunlight,” said Julie, “which can impact the chemical blue hormones in our brain.”
Symptoms of SAD include
- Low mood for most of the day, for several days in a row
- Increased fatigue
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Not getting along with others
- The potential for suicidal thoughts
If you have any of these symptoms—or if you know someone who is—the last thing to do is go it alone until spring. The winter days are difficult enough. Avoid making it more difficult by isolating yourself.
If you're feeling blue this winter, you're not alone. Talk to someone.Learn More About Kettering Health's Behavioral and Mental Health Services
The month's most popular health news, stories, and tips in your inbox.Sign Up