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How Seasonal Change Impacts Mental Health

Last Updated: May 28, 2024

You may have heard the term “seasonal anxiety” or “seasonal depression” before or may feel like you experience that yourself. However, what many do not realize is that Seasonal Affective or Seasonal Behavioral Disorder is a real thing that so many human beings struggle with. 

What exactly is it though? In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. People also experience the opposite pattern and have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses. 

Throughout the fall and winter, it can be very difficult to feel motivated, which can cause some to feel like failures, tired, and lazy. However, you are not alone. During these cold months when the time changes, it gets darker earlier, and it is difficult to get outside in fresh air, it is common to feel lost. During the fall and winter, you may feel symptoms like: 

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

However, this can also be true for spring and summer. Although commonly most people seem to enjoy the warm weather, sun, and blooming flowers, this can be extremely stressful for others. Depending on your lifestyle it may feel like things are coming to an end, there is more going on, and you can’t keep up with everything coming your way. As difficult as the winter is, although the weather is nice the spring and summer can be just as difficult for some people. During the spring in summer, it is common to see things like:

  • trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Increased irritability

In general, Seasonal affective disorder can have the same symptoms, regardless of the season. 

Some of these symptoms can include: 

  • Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Having problems with sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating, and weight gain
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

Some of these symptoms may be more severe than others, but it is important to note that just because it is winter, you do not have to feel this way. This feeling can contribute to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. 

So how can you help yourself during a time that may feel hopeless? Well, it is important to be aware of your trigger weather and seasons. Knowing yourself and what you feel comfortable or uncomfortable around is huge in an active recovery and making sure you are taking care of yourself. 

No, you are not mother nature, and no, you cannot control the weather and seasons. So how is this even preventable? Well, preventing weather is impossible, but taking early action and working on yourself can help you feel better during these stressful situations. Some things you can do to support yourself are

  • Joining a support group 
  • Setting small goals for yourself each day 
  • Hydrating 
  • Seeing a counselor or therapist 
  • Speaking to a friend or family member about your feelings 
  • Try to take in as much fresh air as possible 
  • Try to exercise 
  • Meditate 

Although these things may not automatically cure your feelings, they can help lead you in the right direction. I myself know the importance of taking care of yourself and paying attention to your body and the environment around you. Although it can feel overwhelming, you, therapists, and loved ones are with you every step of the way.