Then in late February and March moods began to rise slightly and by April the people with more serious and severe mood disorders could begin to approach mania. I’m not sure if anyone knows exactly, besides the loss of natural daylight, what is going on. People with cycling bipolar disorder show this shift the most clearly and they tend to “go up in the spring and down in the autumn”. The sub-clinical folks who do not have such noticeable swings, but clearly feel better in summer and sluggish in the winter may just be on the low end of a spectrum or have what is called a “shadow syndrome.”
Whatever the reason and the label, there are things you can do to mute winter misery.
Get exercise. That is the one sure way to fight the blahs. As much as you can stand, 20 minutes a day of raising a sweat is ideal. Aerobic exercise is the best because it raises your heart rate and pumps up your circulation and oxygen intake. I, personally, loathe exercise. I am a born slug. But even I try. I am a “dog-nut” and my pups make me take walks even when I don’t want to. They are great soothers of winter miseries in many ways. There is always the opportunity for a “three dog night” snuggle here in Vermont.
Avoid excess carbohydrates if you can. Most of us sneak toward “comfort foods” in the winter but those are almost always carbs. Beef stew and lasagna and mac and cheese all look so good when the weather starts to chill and we are feeling blue. No one rushes to eat a bowl of spinach or kale to feel better. Try not to increase your alcohol intake in winter. Booze is a depressant. It makes you feel better while you are drinking but it drags your mood down as you metabolize it.
Get out of the house and socialize. Doing active things with friends is good for mood. Of course, the holidays may present a big challenge if you have experienced a loss. There really is no remedy for grief except, perhaps, time. It never ceases to amaze me how in the holiday season old ghosts of past losses and sorrows somehow return to haunt us. We thought that stuff was dead and buried long ago and then – boom – it is back again. None of this should be news. We all know the recommendations for getting through the long winter. The big trick, of course, is doing them.