It can be concluded that without darkness, there is no true appreciation for the light. This past weekend, Daylight Savings Time occurred. This meant an extra hour of sleep. But it also meant the beginning of shorter days, where darkness appears earlier in the evening. For many, it’s the official physical sign that the seasons are changing and the holiday season is once again upon us.
For many, the darker, colder days reveal a different type of season – one of depression, fatigue, and anxiety. According to a recent New York Times article, “Seasonal Affective Disorder”, or SAD — a type of depression that occurs with the changing of the seasons — can affect up to 10 percent of people in the United States. That percentage is only one in which people are medically diagnosed, so it is assumed that the actual percentage of people suffering during this time of year is actually much greater.
What does it this look like and what can we do about it?
- Decreased outdoor activity and exposure to sunlight: Get moving. Exercise is a proven benefit to mental health. Don’t worry about maxing out your heart rate or committing to intense workouts. Gentle movements can be as beneficial to your brain just as much as intense activity.
- A Change in Routine: When our internal clocks are disrupted, it forces us out of our normal routines. Make a new enjoyable routine for your evenings to help your brain settle into the new season. Routines give you something to look forward to and tell your brain what to expect, and they reassure your subconscious that everything’s on track.
- Increased anxiety and anticipation: Practice gratitude and meditation. There’s a reason you see “try meditation” recommended so often; it is clinically demonstrated to work. There are millions of apps and YouTube videos to get you started.
We’ve all heard the old cliché phrase that “change is the only constant in life.” It is up to each of us in how we choose to respond to these changes in life. They are inevitable, and will happen whether we like it or not. Try to be present and remember that in order for lightness to be seen, darkness must also exist. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
Mind Springs Health and West Springs Hospital provide a continuum of care, inpatient and outpatient, for mental health and addiction challenges on Colorado’s western slope. No concern is too big or too small. If you or a loved one is experiencing behavioral health complications like mental illness or addiction, treatment works and we can help.