Self-care and mental health in winter
In peak summer in Ireland we have almost 18 hours of daylight and the dark winter days bring just over 8 hours. As the shorter days are upon us, many experience less vitality and enthusiasm for life.
For some it can result in 'Seasonal affected disorder' or SAD, a form of depression that affects one in 15 people in Ireland between September and April, and is more extreme from December to February. Its severity varies with some not being able to function at all and others feeling a milder version of the Winter blues.
Common symptoms include:
- Depression, feeling sad, low like a failure and sometimes hopeless
- Sleep problems - resulting in oversleeping and difficulty staying awake (in some cases sleep is disturbed and the person wakes early)
- Lack of energy - too tired to do normal routine things - this can lead to cravings and overeating of carbohydrates and sugar to give quick energy
- Mood swings
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to focus
- Increased Anxiety - feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with things and life
- Loss of libido and less interest in physical contact
- Weakened immune system-Less resilient and prone to sickness (particularly colds and flu)
- Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy
- Loss of interest in spending time with friends and loved ones
- Less / no Joy
(Mental Health Ireland Website)
If you are feeling low here are five ways to help you feel better:
1. Get Maximum Daylight - Get up early. Spend time outside during daylight. Organise your home so that it is bright (have the curtains open during the day) and light. Try and sit near a window when at work.
2. Do things you love to do.
3. Spend time with people you love that are caring, positive and want the best for you.
4. Take care of you. Get enough sleep. Exercise and eat well. Reduce unhealthy stress. Limit caffeine and alcohol and stay well hydrated.
5. Get the help you need. Whether from your GP - or others, ask for the support you need. Meditation can be a great support to develop and sustain a positive mindset. Many also benefit from light therapy, CBT, psychotherapy etc.
Mental Health Status
Ireland have one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe, ranking joint third out of the 36 countries surveyed in the annual Health at a Glance report (2018). In 2016, 18.5 per cent of the Irish population was recorded as having a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, or alcohol or drug use, in 2016.
Rates of depression in Ireland are above the European average for both men and women. The report also showed that twenty eight per cent of Irish children aged between 11 and 15 years reported being bullied in school, while 14 per cent reported being cyberbullied.
Generally, mental health problems cost the Irish economy over € 8.2 billion annually (OECD 2018). If you are affected by mental health problems, you are not alone and there are supports.
The Ask campaign and so many amazing charities in Wexford including Pieta House, The Wexford Mental Health association and others in Wexford and around the country have resources to support people in difficulty.
The earlier these types of problems are addressed, the quicker and smoother the recovery.
The important thing for each and every one of us is to know if we and how we are affected and to take action to address. Your life will be better and you will be better able to help others when your mental health and general health is strong.
Calodagh McCumiskey designs and delivers bespoke wellbeing at work programmes to grow people and companies. She also offers regular meditation classes, personal development workshops and wellbeing consultations to help people thrive. Ph 053 9140655 | firstname.lastname@example.org | visit www.spiritualearth.com