With the long hot summer well and truly behind us and as winter draws nearer, bringing with it dark nights and cold weather, we’ve been thinking about mental health.
It’s a well-known fact that changes to the weather and darker nights can affect your mood, and even with Christmas festivities on the horizon, this time of year can be difficult for many, especially those already struggling with mental health.
Research shows that the winter blues are not just a myth, with many scientists and medical experts reporting that the lack of light during the dark winter months contribute to a disorder entitled ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD’.
As well as dark nights and bad weather, there’s also the stress that Christmas itself brings, with presents, parties, eating and drinking adding to the stress, and despite the emphasis on time with family and friends, for many, it can be a solitary time of year.
To help you have a healthy, happy festive season this year, we’ve pulled together ten top tips for mind and body:
1. Look after your mind – if you feel tired, irritable, anxious, less interested in things, or have trouble eating or sleeping you may be suffering from depression. It’s important you get some professional help as soon as you can, and there are many ways that they can help, from light therapy and counselling through to medication.
2. Eat yourself happy – winter can be a time for craving carbs and sugary foods, but it’s important to maintain a healthy diet to combat symptoms of lethargy and irritability.
3. Relax – don’t feel pressured to do more than you can. T’is the season to be jolly, not to run yourself into the ground trying to do everything. Do things at your own pace, and don’t be afraid to say no.
4. Get active – exercise releases good endorphins which help us to feel relaxed, and boost our mood. Why not try swapping a car ride to work for a walk or bike ride or take the opportunity to catch up with family and friends by wrapping up warm and going for a brisk winter walk.
5. Help someone else – it’s no secret that helping other people often makes us feel better. Why not volunteer this year to help one of the charities that so often need help this time of year, or even make a Christmas shoe-box to send to those children who don’t get any presents this Christmas.
6. Sleep – we all know sleep can massively affect your mood, and with all the parties, stress and catching up with friends and family over the Christmas break this can massively affect your sleep pattern. Top tips for a good nights sleep include: limiting caffeine after 12pm, regular exercise, no screens 30 mins before bed, go to bed at the same time and reading fiction before sleeping!
7. Get more light – the winter blues can be caused by lack of light. To combat this, you need to get more natural light; sit outside when you can, sit by a window or even ask your doctor about light therapy.
8. Keep Warm. Advice from the NHS tells us being cold may make you feel more depressed, so staying warm may reduce the winter blues. Keep warm with hot drinks, hot food and warm clothes and shoes. Try and keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).
9. Talk, Talk, Talk! – talking about your feelings or just having a general chat can improve your mood and make it easier to deal with the tough times, you’ll probably also find that you’re not the only one who feels the way you do either.
10. Share – whether in a support group, with a therapist or with family and friends it’s important to share how you feel.
For more information and for help on the above please see the below.