How Seasonal Changes Can Affect Our Mental Health
The effects of seasonal changes on our mental health can be profound. Many changes accompany the shifting seasons: the length of daylight; the intensity of the sunlight; our diet; our routine; how and where we spend our time.
As late fall turns to winter, it's common for people to feel tired, unmotivated, and depleted. Anxiety can increase, too, because these changes can create a vague, unsettled feeling. Also, symptoms of depression can begin or increase. There's a specific disorder called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that is directly tied to seasonal change.
The following tips help enhance mental health through the changing seasons:
- Create a new routine that helps you enjoy things despite the early darkness (reading, board games, crafts, puzzles, etc.)
- Work in movement throughout the day (brief walks, stretches, climbing stairs, etc.) to keep your energy level constant
- Stock up on a variety of favorite teas or coffees, depending on your personal caffeine tolerance
- Be mindful of what you eat, for diet affects mental health
- Identify what you love about the season, and be intentional about incorporating that into your life.
Exposure to cold temperatures can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. The most common cold-related problems are hypothermia and frostbite. When the weather plummets into the single digits, most of us want to do nothing but stay in bed under the covers. And for good reason: With extreme cold weather comes health hazards like frostbite, seasonal affective disorder and even an increased risk of heart attacks.
The elderly, young children, adults under the influence of alcohol and the mentally ill are some of the most at risk for hypothermia, which is an abnormally low body temperature.
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia (hi-poe-THUR-me-uh) occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C).
When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can't work normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death.
Hypothermia is often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in cold water. Primary treatments for hypothermia are methods to warm the body back to a normal temperature.
Shivering is likely the first thing you'll notice as the temperature starts to drop because it's your body's automatic defense against cold temperature — an attempt to warm itself.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Weak pulse
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or very low energy
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
- Bright red, cold skin (in infants)
Frostbite, results in a loss of feeling and color in affected areas such as the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes.
Most cases of frostbite include the following symptoms:
- skin feels prickly and/or numb
- skin is discolored (red, white, gray, or yellow)
- pain around the exposed area
Frostbite is severe when the following symptoms emerge:
- blisters on the skin
- skin turns black
- joints and muscles are stiff or not functioning
Regardless of the severity of frostbite, seek medical care if you have frostbite and any of the following:
- swelling, redness, or discharge in the frostbitten are