Shedding Light on Seasonal Sadness
Do you feel a little “under the weather” lately? Or less enthusiastic and motivated than you felt a few months ago?
Have you been noticing a pattern? That is, do you usually feel this way around September or October every year? Do you often feel a bit sad and unmotivated at the end of the summer?
You are not crazy!
Many people feel the first symptoms by the end of summer and might think it’s just a “post-holiday” depression. It would make sense; many people suffer from that anticlimax of returning to a normal routine and work after an extended period when everything was fun and relaxing.
Although millions of people around the world complain of a winter-related drop in mood and energy, there are still many out there who think that it’s just another myth.
However, after about three decades of research, there is now scientific proof that the arrival of autumn and winter can indeed impact our body and, consequently, our state of mind. These changes are called seasonal, meaning that they occur with the changing of seasons.
In fact, the arrival of winter triggers biochemical changes to which none of us are immune.
Some more than others may experience fatigue, a drop in energy, apathy, mood swings, irritability, and even sadness.
The consequences can be serious, with a more or less severe depressive condition, the so-called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but in most cases it’s just what is commonly referred to as the “winter blues.”
SAD—where the symptoms are so serious that they interfere with a person’s normal functioning for a significant period—requires diagnosis and treatment. Whereas winter sadness, which is far more common, is a more subtle form and usually goes away on its own in a relatively short time.
SAD and the winter blues are cyclical, recurring conditions that begin between late summer and early fall and can last well into the winter months and may only disappear completely when spring arrives.
Why does it occur?
Sometimes, the so-called winter blues is related to specific events—for example, a vacation that proved more tiring or stressful than planned, or the memory of the loss of loved ones on significant dates. In these cases, it’s very common in September after the vacation period is over or approaching All Saints Day between late October and early November, or when Christmas is coming in December.
However, more commonly, the problem is not related to the holidays, but to the way the human body reacts to daylight: during autumn and winter, as the days get shorter, we have less natural sunlight, and light most definitely influences our “biological clock.”
In other words, when there is a reduction in brightness, the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known as the happiness hormone, also decreases.
In addition, light also influences the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Light interrupts the production of melatonin in order to wake us up. However, as the nights are longer in winter, the production of melatonin increases, resulting in a lack of energy and fatigue.
Therefore, in addition to causing a decrease in vitamin D, the lack of light disrupts the circadian rhythms. Vitamin D deficiency alone can trigger a range of physical and mental symptoms.
People who work from home, as is the case for many translators, proofreaders, and copywriters, are even more likely to suffer from these kinds of symptoms related to the arrival of shorter days and fewer hours of daylight.
In these types of professions, teleworking is more common, so we don’t even have to leave home every day to commute to work, and often several days go by without any exposure to the outdoors and natural light.
The winter blues is known to affect millions of people around the world, and it doesn’t choose genders or ages: it can even affect children!
It is also known, to a greater or lesser extent, for symptoms such as:
- Sadness, depression
- Sleep-related problems
- Lack of energy, apathy, lethargy
- Overeating, motivated by anxiety
- Irritability, lack of patience
- Feeling unmotivated for work
- Feeling unsociable
- Less interest in activities that one normally enjoys
Yet, and despite all the studies carried out, there’s still a lot to learn about winter-related affective disorder!
Beat the winter blues!
Winter doesn’t have to be a sad time!😊
We have the tools to deal with all the challenges we face in life. We just need to learn how to use them. There are always things we can do to improve our psychic well-being.
Of course, each of us is affected differently by the winter blues, so all of our suggestions may not work for everyone. But we are confident that some of them will work for you! You just have to determine what works best in your case.
1. Physical exercise
Do at least 20 minutes of physical activity a few times a week. Sign up at the local gym or put on some sneakers and go for a run. At the very least, take walks outdoors, and if possible, in the company of a friend or family member, or with your pet.
You have most likely put on a few pounds with the excesses of the vacations, so this trick comes in handy!
2. Establish a sleep routine
Don’t sleep more just because you feel sadder or more tired. It’s counterproductive.
Set your alarm clock to wake up at the same time every day, including on weekends. Schedule at least seven hours of sleep every night. Disconnect from any activities that require physical or mental exertion a few hours before bedtime and prepare the environment to be inviting for sleep: soft colors, not too hot, and silent.😴
3. Start organizing for the festive season
Take advantage of the Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s festivities and start making plans for family or friend gatherings. Or plan a full-on party!
It’s also a good excuse to entertain yourself by decorating your home, giving it a more cheerful and colorful look in this season of dim light.
4. Schedule a mini-vacation and start planning now
Book a stay or plan a weekend away even if it’s not too far from home. Arrange a road trip with friends for a weekend in the country, for example. If going away isn’t possible, then schedule just one day to do something different, like trying a new restaurant in another city, or going to a concert of that band you like, or even see a tribute band to your favorite band!
It’s good to have something to look forward to!
5. Find an enjoyable activity
Keeping the mind active with a recent interest helps to improve and stabilize your mood, as well as fight anxiety.
In fact, it can be anything from playing cards or starting a physical personal journal or even a blog, to signing up for dance or drama classes. How about cooking? Or knitting, painting, gardening, crafting? As long as you have something to look forward to and something to occupy your mind with. 🎨💃🌱
6. Watch comedy movies
Arm yourself with popcorn (or a healthy snack) and invite a friend or your better half to a good movie session for a laugh.
Laughter is a very stimulating exercise for the brain and acts as a remedy for sadness and a natural tranquilizer.
7. Take advantage of natural light and illuminate your home and workplace
Whenever possible, take a walk or exercise outside in the morning or at lunchtime to take advantage of exposure to natural light. 🌞
Although it’s not as important as natural light, brighten up the interior environments where you spend the most time during the day and in the evenings. When decorating your home, choose soft colors that reflect the light from outside, and open the curtains whenever possible.
8. Keep warm
Keeping warm can radically reduce winter blues, so try to maintain the inside of your home between 64 ºF and 70 ºF, wear warm clothes, especially warm socks and slippers, and pamper yourself with comforting drinks like hot chocolate, tea, or coffee. ☕
9. Visit friends and family
Socializing has been proven to improve our physical and emotional health and help combat sadness or dismay.
Maintain frequent contact with people you care about, don’t turn down invitations to family gatherings or from friends, and create opportunities to at least talk regularly, even if only on the phone.
What about you, do you usually feel sadder in late summer/early fall? Tell us how you get over it in the comments section.