Today I am handing my blog over to the lovely Becca of Becca Blogs it Out, she's going to talk about how the change in seasons can really affect some people when it comes to their mental health.
We’ve had a pretty good Summer in the UK this year, but the rainy days are becoming more frequent and it’s been a couple of weeks since I last heard anyone complaining about it being too hot.
So, I guess Summer is on the way out and Autumn, with all its pretty colours and cosy jumpers, is on the way in.
I actually love Autumn and Winter. I’m better suited to cooler weather.
Summer, for me, is months of finding clothes that I’m confident enough to wear and won’t overheat in, combined with trying not to look like a sweaty mess all the time and trying not to burn while smothered in factor 50.
Whereas Autumn and Winter are about Halloween and fireworks and Christmas and comfort food.
But what effect do the Winter months have on depression?
Although I prefer the cooler weather, I do find myself struggling more with my mental health as the longer nights and more grey days draw in. And I’m not alone.
Lots of people find that their symptoms of depression are more severe in the Winter months, and it’s thought that increased melatonin and reduced serotonin levels, thanks to the lack of sunlight, might have something to do with that.
This kind of depression is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately shortened to SAD).
So, what can you do about it?
Sometimes… not much.
We all have days where there’s nothing we can do, except get through it and hope the next day is better. On those days, do whatever you have to do.
Be kind to yourself.
For the rest of the time, there are a few things that might help.
Get as much natural sunlight as you can
Spend time outside whenever possible. If lack of sunlight is the problem, don’t make it worse by staying inside.
Go and sit in the garden with a book, or a hot cup of tea, and soak up as much sunlight as you can.
I know. I’m sorry. Sometimes, when you’re feeling down, exercising is the very last thing you want to do. If I’m honest, exercising comes pretty far down on my list, regardless of my mood.
But research into depression has shown that physical activity can help to reduce anxiety and improve your mood, so it’s worth a try.
It doesn’t have to be a full-on gym session or running 5k on your lunch break.
A short, brisk walk is better than nothing at all, and can really help clear your head.
Easier said than done, right?
But there are links between stress levels and depression, so where possible, try to avoid stress. If you can, take a few minutes each day to relax.
Try some breathing exercises – the 4, 7, 8 technique is my personal favourite for relaxation, especially if I’m having trouble sleeping.
Sometimes, when you don’t feel like doing anything, having a routine to stick to can really help. At the very least, try to stick to the same wake-up and bedtimes every day.
It can help avoid that temptation to spend all day in bed if you do your best to stick to that routine.
If you haven’t already, speak to your GP about therapy.
I found CBT really helpful, but it’s not the only option, and you can discuss what might work best for you with your GP.
They'll be able to refer you or give you the details to refer yourself if you live in a self-referral area.
Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence.
Popular opinion seems to be that it’s normal to feel down in the colder months and that you just have to wait it out. People talk about the “post Summer blues” and “Winter blues” as if they’re just a fact of life.
But if you’re concerned about your mental health and think you may have depression, ask for help. You are not alone, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.
It's OK to not be OK and there is help out there if you need it.
About the Author:
Becca is a twin mum and mental health advocate. She blogs about both of these things, plus whatever else she fancies, at beccablogsitout.com. Having struggled with depression and anxiety since going through infertility and IVF, Becca hopes to raise awareness by writing openly and honestly about mental health. She also hates writing about herself in the third person, but will do so when asked nicely!