It’s that time of year again when the clocks move back one hour. It took me years to figure out when the time fell back and when it moved forward so here’s a little handy tip for how I remember; Spring forward, Fall back. But that’s not the main focus of this article. This time of year the days get shorter, the sun is out less, and the weather is so cold it’s hard to want to go outside.
Few people realise how negative of an impact this can have on one’s mental health. I know for myself I struggle more than most during the winter months. I struggle with what is known as seasonal affective disorder. Essentially, it is when people have normal mental health through most of the year, but experience depression like symptoms during the winter months.
It hasn’t always been an issue for me, more just in the last couple of years. For myself I know that the lack of sunlight is the biggest cause. Sunlight, while too much of it can be harmful you need a good amount each day. Why? Because it contains loads of vitamin D!
Vitamin D helps increase energy levels and also helps protect your immune system from all the nasty wintertime illnesses. Even in the winter if you are outside just as much as summer you still receive less vitamin D from the sun. The reason for this is because the sun is farther away from the Northern hemisphere of the earth.
What’s a person to do then? Well one thing is vitamin D supplements. Now of course before you start taking anything like this you need to consult your doctor or GP. They need to give you the all clear before you start anything. But an easy way is to eat more vitamin D rich food. If you love sushi this will be really easy. Raw fish (and cooked too) has a lot of vitamin D. But if you are not a seafood lover there are plenty of other options. Eggs, meats, milk, and mushrooms have loads of vitamin D as well.
Okay, so what if you get plenty of vitamin D, but you still are feeling sluggish over the winter months? There are still other things you can do. Exercise is the biggest thing. Exercise is beneficial for mental health all year round. I know lots of days I struggle to get myself to workout.
There always seems to be something else I need to do; school work, clean, etc. But I never finish a workout feeling worse than I did to start with. In fact, I never finish a workout without feeling better than I did to start with. Even if you only have 15 minutes and you can’t go outside for some reason, you can still get a little physical activity in. Simple stretches in your room, an abdominal workout, or a 5 minute jog on the spot. Something is always better than nothing.
Winter months may be your worst nightmare, or they may pass by just as quickly as summer. However you respond to the season and light change, it’s important to keep up with your mental wellbeing. Check in on yourself every once and a while.
I find I often ask myself how everything is going. I think about how I’ve been feeling and reacting to things. If I see that I am struggling with something I know that I need to make some changes. Maybe it is more sleep, or more exercise, or maybe more time to hang out with friends. Whatever it is, make sure you are staying your best this winter. Don’t let old man frost get the best of you.