There is a lot to be excited about during the winter season, from enjoying the festive period with your loved ones, to celebrating the start of a new year. However, for many people, the winter season can be extremely challenging, especially for those with seasonal affective disorder.
In addition, some people are affected by the financial burden that comes with Christmas. Others have added work-related pressures to contend with. And this year (2020), many of us are still reeling from the past few months of coronavirus-related lockdowns, isolation, and restrictions.
It’s been an incredibly tough year. And the winter months are expected to be hard. In this blog, we’re going to discuss seasonal mental health issues and share our tips on how you can help yourself and others.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs or worsens during particular seasons. Those affected may notice a change in their mental health during a specific season. SAD is most common towards the end of Autumn and during the winter season.
Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:
- feeling extremely low almost every day
- having little to no energy
- losing interest in things you usually enjoy
- having an irregular sleeping pattern
- eating more or less than usual
- feeling agitated, irritable, or sluggish
- struggling to concentrate
- feeling hopeless or worthless
During the winter months, it is more common to sleep a lot more than usual, overeat and feel constantly tired or drained. A study carried out in 2014 found that almost 30% of people in the UK suffer from SAD. This number is now expected to be higher.
COVID-19, Winter And Mental Health
The number of people struggling with their mental health is expected to be particularly high this winter due to the impact of COVID-19. Since the pandemic began in early 2020, the impact of the virus has taken its toll on the mental health of millions.
Losing loves ones, increasing unemployment rates, financial struggles, lack of human contact and feelings of isolation are just a handful of the problems we have dealt with during 2020. So, it’s hardly surprising that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected mental health.
Mental health professionals have predicted an oncoming mental health pandemic. They have also stated that winter will be extremely testing for many people’s mental state.
How To Deal With Seasonal Mental Health Issues
The question is: how do we deal with seasonal mental health issues? If you are worried about how to cope with season mental health issues throughout the winter months, these tips may help.
Communicating with your loved ones regularly will help when you are feeling low. Whether you meet up with your friend in a park, Facetime your family members or set up a group chat with your loved ones, connecting regularly will prevent you from feeling isolated.
Plus, talking to others about your mental health can be helpful when you are feeling down. If you are feeling particularly depressed and fear for your mental health, don’t hesitate to contact a helpline such as CALM or Samaritans.
Have A Structured Routine
You don’t have to plan out your whole week, but having some form of routine will make each day a little easier. Aim to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day as this will help regulate your sleeping pattern.
If you are working from home, try to clock off at the same time each day and give yourself some downtime to relax and refresh. Perhaps put some time aside to plan and prep your meals for the week. This will help you eat healthily and will take some of the stress away from mealtimes.
Exercise is so important for both our mental and physical health. Staying physically active will boost your energy levels and help your overall mental health.
Perhaps start your day with a morning jog. Or go for a 30-minute walk during your lunch break. Join an online yoga class or head to the gym and hit the rowing machine.
Exercising, especially outdoors, can help lift your mood and ease the symptoms of depression.
Avoid And Manage Stress Where Possible
We know it is easier said than done, but avoiding and managing stressful situations can help you cope with seasonal mental health issues.
If you are experiencing work-related stress, reach out to your employer and tell them that you are struggling. They have a duty of care to help employees stay physically and mentally healthy.
If you have a big project coming up, or you can see your workload becoming unmanageable, try to speak up before it spirals out of control and impacts your health.
Use time-management techniques to help you remain in control of both your professional and personal life. And plan big days or events well in advance to reduce stress.
You could also try relaxation and mindful exercises to help you diffuse feelings of stress.
Embrace The Daylight
If you struggle with seasonal affective disorder during the winter months, it is crucial that you get as much daylight as possible. Especially if you are working from home.
It may be cold, but spending time outdoors can be really beneficial for your mental health. Aim to exercise outdoors, meet up with loved ones outdoors and let the daylight into your home or workplace.
Work in a room that has plenty of natural daylight and try to sit near a window.
If seasonal affective disorder or pandemic-related mental health issues are affecting your wellbeing this winter, speak to your doctor. Help, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, counselling and light therapy is available.
How To Help Others With Seasonal Mental Health Issues
If you have noticed that a loved one is struggling with their mental health issues, or if you are an employer worried about your team members, there are ways you can help.
Speak to your loved ones and ask them how you can help them. Communicate with them regularly and encourage them to make the most of the short daylight hours. Explain that you are worried about them and encourage them to seek professional help if you think they need it.
If you are worried about your employees, aim to create an open and honest workplace culture. Discuss the mental health policy you have in place and let your team know that help is available if they need it.
If you are worried about a particular employee, have a private chat with them. Ask if there is anything you can do to help. Can you help with their workload? Would working flexible hours help them? Would they benefit from mental health support?
Breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health and reminding your team that help is available is a big step in creating a mentally healthy workplace.
Get In Touch
Mindful Partners is a specialist recruitment agency that helps people who have recovered from mental health issues get back into the workplace. If you have been out of work with mental ill-health and would like help getting back into a career you love, get in touch.
Alternatively, if you are an employer and would like to find out more about partnering with Mindful Partners to create a mentally healthy workplace, please get in touch.