For many of us in the northern hemisphere, with winter, comes cold weather and less daylight. These changes in environment can affect our psychological functioning and may contribute to an exacerbation of anxiety, while others may notice depressed mood, irritability, weight gain, hypersomnia, and an increase in interpersonal conflicts.Women are twice as likely to experience these climate-related psychological changes. Symptoms tend to peak during the month of February.
Whether your mood changes are within the “normal” range, or whether you have the “winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is thought to affect up to 5% of the population, it is not uncommon to notice changes in how you feel consistent with the changing of the seasons. In fact, the first documented reference to these changes was in 1918 when the term “cabin fever” was coined as characterized by irritability, paranoia, memory problems, and excessive sleep. Now, this term is commonly used to refer to the boredom which results from being indoors for an extended period of time.

If you ever find yourself indoors a bit too often during the cold weather, try combatting the winter blues with some of these strategies:

  • Spend some time in the daylight (as little as 10-15 minutes per day of sunlight can contribute to positive mood changes)
  • Light therapy or the use of full-spectrum/broad spectrum light bulbs in the home
  • Be active: exercise, cook, play board games or computer games, create art projects or crafts (activity is a great mood lifter)
  • Catch up on communication: phone a friend, engage in a video chat/Facetime/Skype session, host a get together/dinner/movie night, carve out special time with a spouse, child, or other loved one (interaction with others helps us to feel connected and less isolated)
  • De-stress: relax with activities like meditation, yoga, tai chi, spa services, movies, music
  • Avoid excessive alcohol (excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to depressed mood and irritability)
  • Psychotherapy and/or medication can also be helpful in addressing these depressive feelings

Spring will be here before we know it….


Dr. Deibler

Lead photo available at 123rf