Winterize Your Mind: How to Manage Mental Health During the Coldest Season
- January 19, 2023
During January and February, Toronto’s streets fill with snowbanks, the roads become icy, the sky clouds over, and the temperature can drop to -30 Celsius. Many people huddle up inside to get out of the cold, leading to less physical activity and less social interaction, both of which could negatively impact mental health.
How does winter affect mental health?
Winter’s impact on mental health varies from person to person, from month to month. Some people find that their mood remains the same in the summer and winter, but others experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) once the snow falls, and the air turns cold.
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is characterized by feelings of sadness, loss of interest, low energy, difficulty concentrating, and a lingering sense of worthlessness or guilt.
The exact cause of these symptoms remains unknown, but it is believed that they all relate to a lack of sunlight.
During Toronto’s winter, the days get shorter, the sky’s become cloudier, and people huddle up inside to get away from the cold. This all leads to reduced sunlight exposure.
Reduced sunlight can result in a drop in serotonin, the neurotransmitter that impacts happiness, and melatonin, which affects sleep patterns and mood (Source: Mayo Clinic).
In short, a lack of sunlight can impact how you feel.
How can you take care of your mental health during the winter?
Take some extra time for yourself. Relax in a hot bath with Epsom salts, eat a nutritious meal, or do some yoga.
Enjoy Winter Activities
When it gets cold, our instinct is to stay inside with a blanket and a warm cup of tea. However, heading outside and embracing the cold could brighten up your mood. For a complete list of fun winter activities, check out our other post, Embrace the Chill.
Exercising can help release endorphins, promoting a sense of well-being, while also making you feel confident and helping you forget your worries (Source: Mayo Clinic).
Join an indoor sports team or try an indoor activity such as bouldering. If you insist on staying inside, you can try doing body weight exercises, Pilates, or yoga from home.
Keep a Journal
If your stress levels are high, you might find yourself worrying while you try to sleep. How do you solve this problem? Get those worries out of your mind by putting them on paper!
Before going to sleep, write down how you feel in a journal. Doing this will help you process your thoughts and feelings and put them to rest so that you too can rest.
Seek Professional Help
If you experience depression or suicidal thoughts as a result of SAD, it is essential that you contact a professional immediately. Students at Fleming College Toronto have access to mental health support 24/7 through Keep.meSAFE. If you need assistance with the Keep.meSAFE app, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your Student ID in the subject line.