Mental Health And The Changing Seasons
Fall is right around the corner, and while some people are super excited for the fall colors and the holiday season, about 5% of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and struggle through the fall and winter. If you start to feel down as the leaves start to change, you may feel alone, but reassured you're not. The transition to fall is tough and the transition to winter is even tougher, but understanding why the seasons affect your mental state can help you come up with strategies to make the season an easier time for you.
Fall is a time where you actually gain an hour of sleep. "Falling back" doesn't just refer to getting that sleep, however, it also means we are spending more time in the darkness. There is ongoing research that shows how Daylight Savings Time affects not only our mental health, but our physical health as well. Daylight Savings Time is a risk factor to depressive people who suffer from SAD. During this time the access to Vitamin D is limited, and adequate vitamin D is key for many bodily functions and a lack of this vitamin has been linked to depression. During this time we spend less time in natural sunlight which can make people feel tired and less hopeful. For some, lack of sunlight can alter their food intake and hunger level which causes them to gain more weight during this time.
The fall season is also a signal that the cascade of holidays is coming. Thanksgiving followed by Christmas and New Years Eve and more. Commercials tend to paint the holidays as a time where all families are happy and having a great time, but some families aren't like that and this time can actually be very negative and stressful for a lot of people. When some families get together there are feuds and constant drama and the changing of the leaves can bring on that anxiety of just knowing what is just around the corner. If this is you, don't feel like you should be pressured into putting yourself into a situation where you aren't happy. It isn't worth your mental health and you will probably have a better time staying at home watching movies in your sweats and eating finger foods with people who make you genuinely happy.
Ways to combat this kind of stress is by being prepared before the colors start to change, get yourself a sun lamp and spend as much time as you can under natural light, starting your own special traditions that you genuinely enjoy doing help too. Take care of yourself, it's ok to be selfish when it comes to your mental health, don't put yourself into situations where you are unhappy to do what's right for you and you will get through the colder months a little easier.