How to be resilient during darker days

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How to be resilient during darker days

As the days become darker earlier because they are shorter, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) becomes prevalent at this time of the year. It usually affects individuals who have ‘healthy’ mental health. It’s not about being miserable because it’s colder or darker.  The symptoms are more than that and is often referred to as the ‘winter blues/ depression’.  The causes of SAD are unknown.  There are several proposed causes including the loss of daylight hours, a disrupted body clock, high melatonin levels, weather and temperature.  It is recognized as a mental health condition and affects nearly a quarter of the population. There is lots of information available on the MIND website should you wish to read more about the causes. In this article, I would like to explore how you can build your own resilience to help manage these feelings.

Resilience is a word frequently used at schools, work and in therapy. It sounds amazing but what is exactly? Resilience is the ability to learn from events and using the experience to build confidence in your own capacity to manage future difficult events.  I chose the word the resilience specifically as SAD is usually time bound and generally the sufferer, has a full and happy life. Therefore, the individual has a wealth of experience they could access to manage the symptoms better.

Reframing is a great technique to help manage the sense of hopelessness that can occur with SAD. It does require some awareness of negative thoughts and being prepared to challenge yourself. Be inquisitive – what helped me manage a similar situation in the past? What choices do I have even if they are limited? What could I think instead? Once you have begun to challenge yourself, it improves perspective keeping and finding solutions for predicaments.

Exercise is an excellent way of increasing the mood stabilizing neurotransmitter serotonin, which is lacking when experiencing symptoms of a depressive nature.  However, the timing of exercise is critical. Research shows that exercise in the evening affects the release of melatonin the following night (this regulates how awake you feel).  In other words, you are more likely to experience a sleepless night the following night.

Light therapy is another natural remedy. It is a special light box used during the winter months to help replace the lack of sunlight. However, it is not suited to everyone and there are side effects- seek medical advice before commencing use*.

Eating a healthy balanced diet is widely recognized as contributing to our mental health. The symptoms of SAD can lead to consuming high amounts of fatty processed foods to compensate for the natural production of serotonin. Such foods lack nutrients including folate. Folate can be found a wide variety of vegetables and pulses. Low levels of folate are linked to the onset of depressive feelings.  Potentially becoming a vicious cycle of consumption of high calorie food with little benefit, increasing the waistline which adds to the self-deprecation.

Where possible, maintain your routine and contact with your support network. This may include hobbies and socializing because they help to increase the production of serotonin which is wonderful at promoting a sense of emotional control.

Above all else seek help if you are struggling. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Hypnotherapy is a gentle approach to implement change with several conditions- see the website for more details. Please use the contact form below to get in touch with MindAbility.

*The views based in this article are the author’s only and you should seek medical advice before implementing any significant change.

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