Winter weather is upon us! On average we have 180 gray days annually in central Ohio. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression, can result from the lack of sunshine at this time of year.
If you feel depressed during the winter but feel much better in seasons with more daylight, you may have SAD. Some signs and symptoms of SAD include lack of energy, sleeping too much and overeating. If you aren’t able to improve your mood through activity, please let your doctor know.
Now that Ohio’s winter gray has set in, the months before spring often bring boredom and loneliness to people of all ages. How do you beat the winter blues?
First, take good care of yourself. The basics of good health include eating right, getting plenty of rest and exercising. It’s important to remain active, both physically and socially, regardless of the weather.
Try to stay physically and mentally active. Start a new hobby or a project using a skill you already have. Try a new recipe and invite someone to share your creation. Crochet or knit items for a family member, friend or charity. Discover your inner artist – pick up a paintbrush and try your hand at creating your own masterpiece. Adult coloring pages are an option. Maybe woodworking or beading interest you. Start a jigsaw puzzle and invite friends to help. There are many creative pursuits that can help you stay busy, entertained and fulfilled, while relaxing and enjoying down time. Working together helps build relationships and is a wonderful time to share stories and plan the next gathering.
Few activities are more uplifting than helping a cause that you care about. Volunteer your spare time at a local food pantry or a church or shelter where meals are served to those in need. Big Brothers Big Sisters is looking for lunch buddies to meet with elementary aged children on a regular basis. There are lots of options!
If the weather keeps you from your normal workout regimen, you can still exercise at home. Workouts for all levels are offered on television and DVD. Search online for “exercise at home without equipment” for ideas. Sing and dance to music, perhaps during one of the talent shows on television. You just might become engrossed in following a competitor; it will provide something to look forward to.
Spend quality time with people you enjoy, who listen to you, make you laugh and let you know that you are important to them. It could be a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor or someone from your faith community. We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Isolation has a negative impact on our health and wellbeing so plan times to be with others to help stay happy and healthy.
Get plenty of sleep. Stick to a routine of going to bed near the same time each night and turn off devices several hours before bedtime. Studies have shown that the blue light from phones and e-readers interferes with our ability to fall asleep so it’s recommended to refrain from using them in bed.
Figuring out what helps you stay centered and giving yourself permission to take time out for YOU can make an enormous difference in maintaining good mental health all winter long. Practice gratitude by reminding yourself of the genuine gifts you have to be grateful for: life, health, family, friends or support are just a few examples.
Penny Sitler is executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County.
Printed in the Newark Advocate on December 26, 2021.