Managing Our Mental Wellbeing Through Winter

Psychologists from the British Psychological Society have given their advice and tips for finding the light this winter when things are feeling tough.

Dr Joan Harvey, a chartered member of the BPS explained:

“We often see a rise in people feeling down or struggling as winter hits, particularly after the clocks go back, making our evenings darker, and as the cold weather begins to bite.

“This year we have more stresses and challenges than normal, with the cost of living crisis causing incredibly difficult decisions for people as they struggle with soaring prices. Increased stress in the run up to Christmas is normal, and this year even more so with budgets stretched and many re-assessing their plans.

“We hear a lot about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which people sometimes experience during the winter months, and this year we might expect to see more people struggling with a combination of SAD and cost of living induced stress and worry.

“There are things that we can do to manage our mental health this winter. While these tips will not tackle the incredibly difficult challenges and choices they have to make, I hope they will serve to help a few people.”

  • Set small goals and targets – don’t try and set yourself massive to-do lists or targets, but instead keep goals small and achievable. The sense of achievement from achieving your targets and goals can be a real boost.
  • Get as much daylight as possible – where you can, get outside in daylight hours for a walk or some fresh air, the more light the better. If you have flexible hours at work try to schedule some time in for a walk on your lunchbreak.
  • Lamps similar to daylight – these can be really effective if you are struggling to get enough daylight and it is impacting your mood. These can come on in the morning in time to wake you up, or they can be used in the evening.
  • Manage expectations around seasonal festivities – for many, this year will pose a really difficult financial challenge. A way to combat some of the problems we are all facing might be to go for more personalised presents, including some that you can make yourself. Anything practical can help us feel more hopeful about what we can achieve and for less money too.
  • Seek support if you are struggling – if you are struggling then do reach out to either a friend, family member or your GP. There is support out there and you don’t have to struggle through on your own.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.

SAD is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter.

Some people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.

Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of SAD can include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
  • difficulty concentrating
  • decreased sex drive

For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.

NHS Inform
Image credit Bell

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