Mary Lu Spagrud // Canadian Mental Health Association – Prince George/Quesnel Branch
Have you ever noticed how different you feel on a warm sunny day? How about when it’s cold, snowy here in PG? Does it change how you feel then? Everyone’s mood can be affected by the weather. It impacts what we wear, how we feel physically, emotionally and even how we behave. But when the seasons change, bringing changes in the weather, temperature and length of day, some people can be quite impacted by this. The seasonal changes can affect their entire sense of well-being.
If we aren’t careful, we may spiral into feelings of low moods, low energy and changing how we engage with others around us as well as behaviour patterns. Before we know it we are deep in a vicious cycle of the winter blues.
When we are feeling bad we can start to forget those good things in our life and focus on the negative. Our feelings change, we feel depressed or irritated, maybe a little stressed? When we are feeling like that it changes how we feel physically. Maybe our appetite goes, we’re tired, more at risk for colds or other bugs. Then if we are physically feeling bad, our behavior changes; we do less, put off chores, looking after ourselves and stop doing things we enjoy. When we stop taking care of ourselves and doing things we enjoy it makes us feel worse and there we go further into a downward spiral.
Why do I feel blue?
The winter blues are feelings of low emotions that come with the cold and dark days we often experience during the winter months. This is because the hormone serotonin, associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. Research in Ontario suggests that 15 percent of the general population experience these winter blues. The winter blues differs from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which affects about two percent of the population and is a serious form of depression.
Simple tips to help beat those blues
Maximizing exposure to sunlight.
Spend more time outdoors during the day and arrange indoor environments to receive maximum sunlight. Move furniture to sit near a window and keep curtains open during the day.
Exercise relieves stress, builds energy and increases mental and physical well-being. Make a habit of taking a daily noon-hour walk outside. Getting moving and exposure to natural sunlight can help you feel more relaxed and happier.
Good nutrition improves both our mental and physical health. Make sure to have fruits and vegetables each day, cut down on the junk food and ensure there is fibre in your diet.
Keep your sleep schedule.
Over sleeping can worsen the feelings of the winter blues so try to keep to your regular schedule of bed time and waking up, no matter how inviting staying curled up in those blankets may feel.
Call a friend.
Stay connected socially, even though a struggle with current health restriction we can still connect with a phone call, virtually or even sending a text or email. Connecting with others makes us feel good and can help improve our mood.
Give yourself a pat on the back.
Struggling with low moods is no easy task, so it’s important to be kind to yourself. Have regular check-ins with yourself and give yourself credit for what you accomplish each day no matter how big or small and remember you are stronger than you think.
Spend extra time on self care.
When we are feeling blue or struggling with negative feelings we may need some extra self care. Find time in your day to do those things that make you smile, re-energize or rejuvenate you and make these things a priority.
Remember it’s normal to have some days when you feel down.
But if you feel down for several days in a row and you can’t find the energy or motivation to do the things you normally do and enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, if you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or helpless.
About the author: Mary Lu Spagrud is the Manager of Education & Projects for Canadian Mental Health Association – Prince George Branch. She presents on a wide variety of topics relating to wellness, mental health and hopes to increase understanding and acceptance of all aspects of mental health and wellness. Mary Lu holds a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Studies from the University of Manitoba and is currently working towards a Master’s degree. She enjoys time spent with her family and friends, camping, enjoying the outdoors and a good glass of BC wine.