TROY — The winter season brings about cold temperatures, snow, and many cloudy days. It also brings about the winter blues.
According to Brad Reed, public information officer with the Tri-County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services, the winter blues can be brought on by a few factors including shorter days, colder temperatures, less sunlight, and the stress associated from the holidays.
“Our brains respond to sunlight, and frequencies and intensities of light that mimics sunlight, so being deprived of that can affect mood,” said Reed.
Reed suggests being observant with family and friends to look out for specific signs concerning their mental well being. These signs include “a lack of interest in activities that used to bring joy, increased irritability or quickness to anger, forgetfulness or pronounced procrastination, and sadness absent any specific reason,” according to Reed. If anyone you know experiences any of these conditions for more than a week, encourage that person to seek professional help.
To do that, Reed suggests talking to the person about what has been observed.
“Often the person may be struggling with negative thoughts and is just waiting for an invitation to talk about it. Use statements such as ‘I’ve noticed you haven’t been as active lately’ rather than ‘what’s wrong with you – all you do is sleep?’ If you can state what you observe, then that lets the person know that what they are feeling inside is being expressed on the outside, and that often gives them the permission they need to talk about it and seek help,” said Reed.
In Miami County, there are several options for mental health resources including counseling services, emergency services, and in-patient hospitalizations, which are utilized for severe cases. The Tri-County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services’s website provides a resource guide at https://www.tcbmds.org/resources.html.
Any mental health providers that are contracted with the organization provide counseling services on a “sliding fee scale based on income,” commented Reed.
Reed also discussed the importance of self-care to help improve mental wellness through coping with stress. Common self-care techniques include taking walks, exercising, mindful breathing, taking quiet time, yoga, screen-free time, and hobbies.
Reed commented, “Cultivate a sense of purpose – helping others is probably the best way to help ourselves. It doesn’t have to be big things or a full-time job – just look out for your neighbors, check in on someone who may be lonely, volunteer one day a month – even little things improve mood.”
“My favorite way to self-care is to take a walk outside. When the weather is bad, I try to find a window I can look out of for a few minutes – even on a gray February day. I also like using mindful meditation apps on my smartphone,” said Reed.
Reed finished by saying, “Anyone who struggles with mood issues, especially in the winter months, should know that it is normal for the brain and body to slow down at this time of year. It’s a survival mechanism that is hardwired in many of us. Try different things and do what works for you – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. And if it persists for more than a couple of weeks, or it interferes with your ability to work or affects your relationships, then seek professional help.”