The freezing temperatures, cloudy days and early darkness of a Midwestern winter can dampen even longtime residents’ spirits, with the toll of the cold months going beyond physical discomfort.
For those with clinical depression or seasonal affective disorder, shorter days and reduced sunlight can negatively affect their emotional well-being, and those without a mental health diagnosis are not at sheltered from the effects of winter on their psyche. Whether it’s changes in sleep patterns, shifts in body chemicals, or increased isolation, this time of year can exacerbate loneliness and sadness.
“As humans, we are very sensitive to the seasons and the environment around us,” says Angela Barnes, LPC, of Gundersen Health System.
People who find they are coping with the winter doldrums in a manageable way may find their mood lifted by increasing interactions with their social support system, whether it’s meeting safely indoors, to connect virtually or take a walk together outside. Exercise and physical activity in general, says Barnes, are valuable for mental well-being. A nutritious diet can also help regulate mood.
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Consistent sleep is essential, Barnes says, and mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga are also valuable for improving mood. Light therapy and supplements can be helpful for some, but Barnes advises consulting a doctor before starting either for recommendations and to ensure there is no risk of adverse effects due to medical history.
For those who cherish the outdoors, Barnes suggests finding indoor quid pro quo, like getting houseplants or starting seedlings if you’re a gardener. Taking on a project or hobby can lift your spirits, as can finding a podcast you enjoy listening to.
If a person finds themselves with consistent low energy, poor focus, loss of interest, or thoughts of self-harm, they should speak to a professional, as therapy, prescription medications, or other interventions may be needed. to treat his depression.
You should seek help, says Barnes, “If your thoughts start to get worrisome – you’re actually thinking about harming yourself or having passive thoughts of ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’, if you even start not more enjoyment in activities or you feel no joy throughout the day, or it’s just chronic, you don’t bounce back.
More information from Gundersen on Seasonal Affective Disorder, visit shorturl.at/rKY09.
In photos: Demand remains high for COVID tests at Gundersen’s drive-thru site
Emily Pyrek can be reached at [email protected]