It’s freezing outside. The holidays have passed. People leave work and the sun is already down. All these scenarios impact Wisconsinites. It’s that time of year when the winter blues start to set in. However, despite the chilly temperatures and shifts in the season, there are ways to combat being down in the dumps.
Hollie White, MSW, APSW, is the Project Coordinator for Racine County Family Resources, in conjunction with Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin. Kristine Jacobs is a Child and Family Therapist at Knapp Elementary School’s New Beginnings Clinic. The clinic is the result of a partnership with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, where Jacobs is employed, and Knapp Elementary School, where she practices. These two local leaders in the field of mental health provide insight on how to get through this season of life. Additionally, the two provide information and resources that are available in the community.
What are the Winter Blues?
“Essentially it refers to a drop in mood during the winter months,” says White. “There is a clinical diagnosis for clinical depression related to the seasons, which is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In the mental health field, most of us refer to it as seasonal depression, but with the understanding that depression is a clinical diagnosis, and mood shifts in the winter months are very common and do not mean that a person has a clinical mental illness.”
With that being said, SAD affects half a million people every winter between September and April, peaking from December through February, according to Mental Health America of Wisconsin. There are a variety of reasons why this condition affects people during this time of the year. White comments that “it is due to a combination of holidays (which are hard for people and have a lot of grief associations), cold months (which limits the amount of activities you can do), lack of fresh air, and reduced amount of sunlight (most people leave work in the pitch black).” These changes can be hard for people to adapt to.
Not everyone processes or experiences the same things in the same way. What symptoms do people experience when they are dealing with the winter blues? The Mayo Clinic states that these are some symptoms that are associated with SAD:
- Mood changes, anxiety, a general discontent, loneliness, loss of interest, sadness
- Excess sleepiness, insomnia, or sleep deprivation
- Appetite changes or fatigue
- Irritability or social isolation, depression, lack of concentration, or weight gain
White adds, “while it is important to normalize a shift in mood, if it gets to the point that your mood does not feel like you can manage it well, it impacts your work, makes it feel near impossible to get out of bed, completely changes your eating habits, and/or impacts your relationships, then you should look into talking with a therapist.”
Connecting with a Therapist
Talking with a therapist can be important if you are struggling with your mental health. Visit the Racine County Family Resources website and click on “Looking for a behavioral health provider?” on the main page. A list of credible resources will be shown to you.
Finding activties to suit the season
Finding a therapist is just one way to overcome the winter blues. White states, “it is important to find things that you enjoy that can be consistent year round, as well as some hobbies that you can substitute out in the cold months.”
Examples of things you can do:
- Year round activties: writing in a journal, reading, crafting and cooking
- In the summer: boating, walking your dog and gardening outside
- In the winter time: transition to taking a car ride, playing with your dog inside and caring for indoor plants
Jacobs notes that, to be more specific, “become aware of one’s depleting and nurturing activities by making a list. Next, start small by picking one thing that can reduce or eliminate a depleting item or increase or start a nurturing activity. Take steps to work on that goal to establish a new habit. When one goal has been habituated, start on a new goal.”
Explore these additional resources from the following topics that help with self care, mood management, stress reduction and the difference between feeling sad/clinical depression and more.
While the sun might not be shining as much these days, you can still find enjoyment in outdoor activities. Doing the following activities with a family member or friend can help boost your mood and help you to find positive moments during the winter season.
- Try kicksledding, cross country skiing, and showshoeing at River Bend Nature Center
- Check out different winter themed crafts you can make
- Read Don’t Hibernate: Great Winter Home Improvement Projects
Valuable mental health resources are also available on the Racine County Eye. Type in mental health into the search bar to read a variety of articles based on this topic. Read 5 Mental Health Services in Racine County.
Likewise, visit Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin to see the impact they are making in the mental health field.
Help is also available by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Someone is available 24 hours a day. Learn more online and get the help you deserve. Remember, you are not alone.
The Racine County Eye is your source for local news that serves our diverse communities. Subscribe today to stay up-to-date with local news. Have a story idea? Connect with Emma Widmar by emailing email@example.com.