The winter holiday season is often considered a magical time of year—its festive lights, music, smells, and gatherings making some people giddy with glee. But for many people, the holidays and the long cold months that follow can trigger feelings of sadness and loneliness, or otherwise coincide with a decline in mental health.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), seasonal affective disorder (SAD), aka “winter blues,” is a common response to the change in the seasons. That is, while some people are specifically impacted by the stresses of the holidays, for others, others experience a decline in mental health as fall turns into winter, ushering in months of colder weather and decreased daylight.
People in the northern part of the U.S. tend to be affected more by SAD than those in the south. One explanation for this is that lack of daylight results in a decrease in vitamin D levels and serotonin levels, which plays a role in the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep (NIMH also says that some findings have shown that some people with SAD produce too much melatonin). This combination can result in mood changes, trouble sleeping, weight gain or loss, withdrawal from activities one usually enjoys, or generally feeling like something is “off.”
If you are experiencing depression or seasonal affective disorder, reach out to your doctor or other medical professional to help you navigate and improve these unwanted feelings. According to an article by the NIMH, some treatments that may be beneficial include light therapy (through sun lamps or intentionally increasing sun exposure), prescription medications, and psychotherapy.
As we head into the holiday season and a new year, we at Nature’s Grace and Wellness hope that our Spark the Conversation about Mental Health series has made an impact. Our goals were to highlight the importance of talking about mental health, and prioritizing mental health in our daily lives and personal healthcare journeys. We also aimed to break stigmas by sharing personal stories and insights from everyday people and celebrities about their own experiences living with mental health challenges.
We hope you continue to Spark the Conversation about Mental Health in your community, and remember that every flicker of hope can create a Spark!
If you or a loved one are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, please dial 988, call 1-800-273-
TALK (8255), or text TALK to 741741. If 911 is needed, ask specifically for an ambulance and for a Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) police officer. To learn more about Nature’s Grace and Wellness, visit naturesgraceandwellness.com.
Visit https://chicagoreader.com/special/spark-the-conversation/ to read other stories in our series.