Winter is a time for bundling up, drinking hot cocoa, and celebrating holidays. In North Dakota, it may also be a time of short days, plunging temperatures, mountains of snow, and cheek-numbing wind. During times of extreme cold or winter storms, the lack of sunlight alters the neuro-chemicals in our bodies, disrupting our body's natural rhythms and influencing our mood.
It is important to be aware of your mental health and learn how the seasons affect you. Even if you love the snow and winter activities, keep in mind that decreased sunlight and time outside can affect your body and impact your mental health. For some, seasonal changes can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, or other changes in their mental health.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle to regulate your mood:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get enough sleep.
- Stay in touch with caring people (having supportive people in your life strengthens your sense of community and makes it more likely you'll ask for help if you need it).
- Get sunlight whenever possible. If a lack of sunlight is an issue for you, consult your doctor about light therapy.
- Practice mindfulness. Find a guided meditation or simply close your eyes to focus on your breath or a favorite song.
Some changes in mood are to be expected but be aware of any changes that become severe or overwhelming. If you begin to miss work or school, have changes in weight or appetite, struggle to enjoy activities, or have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, seek professional help.