Battling the winter blues; Prioritizing mental health in the winter months


By Haylee Pence

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MIAMI VALLEY – The holidays and wintertime can prove to be a challenging time for some people due to a multitude of factors. These factors can be combated to help prevent or work through these challenging times.

One major factor that can impact a person’s mental health is the loss of a loved one. Someone who has lost a loved one can experience what is called the “anchoring effect which associates the holiday with that loss, and every year they remember that loss and re-experience it to an extent,” according to Brad Reed, director of Community Resource Development with the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services. To combat this, people can work on “remembering the positive memories associated with that loved ones and not the loss,” Reed said.

The winter months can also be more difficult due to the days being shorter, and people’s mental health is impacted by the amount of sunlight they receive. With people being indoors more often, the lack of sunlight can lead to “less energy and a depressed mood or anxiety.” There are a few ways to combat the reduction of sunlight and the impact it has on their moods. One way is to “remind yourself that it is a natural thing to have less energy.” Another way is to utilize “sunlight-rated lightbulbs,” which simulate natural light.

“Get outside as much as you can,” Reed said. “Even a little bit of outdoors can be a mood lifter.” If you feel like you need more sleep, adjust your schedule to get that sleep.

Another impact on someone’s mental health is the high expectations placed on people during the holidays, including for them to be social and go to gatherings. To combat this, realize it’s okay to say no or to not stay as long as is expected. Setting boundaries is important for mental health.

Another factor that could impact someone’s mental health is alcohol consumption, which is common during holiday celebrations. This is especially more difficult for those dealing with addiction and are in recovery. Party hosts should be aware that some guests need non-alcoholic options and to not pressure others.

Here are some signs that loved ones should be watchful for: isolation, expressed feelings of hopelessness, increased consumption of alcohol, sleep issues (too much or too little), eating issues (too much or too little), loss of interest in daily activities, and emotional sensitivity.

This list isn’t all-inclusive, and not all people will show all of these signs. If you notice these signs in a loved one, “it is almost always best to talk to the person privately,” Reed said.

Bringing it up in front of others could be embarrassing for the person. Reed suggested for “people to utilize ‘I’ statements, like I’ve noticed […]” when talking to the person and to “avoid accusatory tones.”

Within Miami County, the Tri-County Crisis Hotline is a resource if it is an emergency. If it’s not an emergency, the Tri-County Board’s website has information about mental health provider agencies. The counselors associated with this program offer services for people in any financial situation.

Some healthy productive ways to cope with stress include physical activity like walking, swimming, or riding a bike. Another option is meditation or yoga. There are multiple apps available for smart phone users for guided meditation, calming breathing, yoga, and other stress relieving activities. Another option is utilizing a creative outlet such as painting, coloring, solving puzzles, or playing music.

Reed wants residents to know, “Many of the services supported by the Tri-County Board are crisis-focused or long-term treatment focused, and rightly so – those in crisis or with chronic and severe mental illness need treatment supports. However, we also provide training, education, and resources for those not in crisis but experiencing stress or sadness. Addressing these things early, before they become a crisis, is both healthier for individuals and more cost effective for the mental health system. In the last several years, people have begun appreciating the value of mental wellness and are increasingly seeking ways to live healthier and happier, even in the face of unprecedented challenges. For more information on training and other resources, or to contact the Board with questions, see our website at”

For emergency crisis management, please call the 24/7 Tri-County Crisis Hotline at 800-351-7347 if you’re within Miami, Shelby, or Darke Counties. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. A National Crisis Text Line is available at 741741.

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