For many people, winter is a down and depressing time. Often we don’t want to go out and contend with bad roads or cold weather. We end up cooped up in our homes, in the dark, getting lonely. For lots of us, it also means the loss of our usual hobbies and activities that rejuvenate us like hiking, golfing, gardening, and many other outdoor activities. As a result, our mood often takes a downturn and we can get to feeling depressed.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
For others, winters spell the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a subtype of depression that occurs seasonally due to the reduction in exposure to sunlight. Late sunrise and early sunset have many of us going to work in the dark and returning home in the dark. Being covered in pants and long sleeves also reduces the amount of skin that can soak up the vitamin D that sunlight does provide. These variables induce a change in body chemistry that drives this depression. The only upside is that it lifts naturally in the spring and summer months.
If you are looking for some ways to beat the winter blues, here are some ideas that have some science and research behind them.
Despite how the holidays are portrayed on television and in the movies, they often create a lot of stress for people. Research says that 8 out of 10 Americans are expected to feel stressed out by the holidays. Nearly two-thirds of people claim that the holidays create financial stress in their lives. Upwards of 40% report eating unhealthy during the holidays in large part due to stress. Spending time with family and relatives, although enjoyable on one hand, often fuels stress on the other hand as old family dynamics are recreated and played out. Almost 65% of people say that the lack of time to plan and prepare for the holidays is one of the top stressors during the holiday seasons. This year, try to take a proactive approach to keep your stress more manageable and in check. Talk with family members early on to coordinate dates, times, and locations. Start meal planning 2-3 weeks ahead of time so you have plenty of time to shop for food and get supplies. Consider splitting up the meal and have each family member bring a couple of items. This will be much more affordable for everyone and you won’t have to try to prepare and cook so many dishes on the day of. Gift-giving is a wonderful expression of love and appreciation, however, don’t feel obligated to out-do yourself from last year. Talk to family members, set a spending limit that everyone is comfortable with, and consid read more
What is Compulsive Gambling?
Where many people enjoy gambling as an occasional social or recreational activity, for others it becomes a real struggle. Problem gambling is an urge to gamble despite experiencing negative consequences or continuing to gamble despite a desire to stop. An estimated 15 million Americans have problem gambling with more than 3 million of them having severe problematic gambling. Problem gambling is not a bad habit or moral weakness, but a serious condition that is treatable. Although it is commonly referred to as gambling addiction, it is actually categorized as an impulse control disorder. However, like chemical addictions, it is a progressive and chronic condition. Problem gambling tends to strain relationships, affect one’s ability to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school, and can lead to financial catastrophe. It can lead people to do things they never thought themselves capable of such as borrowing or stealing money from partners, employers, and even their children.
Symptoms & Features
Pathological Gambling Disorder is a persistent and recurring maladaptive gambling pattern as evidenced by five or more of the following symptoms: 1) a mental preoccupation with gambling, 2) a need to gamble with increasing amounts of mo read more
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It manifests with two components: obsessions and compulsions. The obsessions are unwanted and recurring thoughts, images, beliefs, or impulses that are intrusive and upsetting for people. Common obsessions include fear of contamination, having things orderly or symmetrical, aggressive impulses, or sexual images or thoughts. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors people feel compelled to do in an attempt to reduce anxiety stemming from the obsessions. Examples of compulsions include washing, cleaning, counting, checking, orderliness, or hoarding things. An important qualifier for OCD is that it is interfering with a person’s ability to function. Many people have obsessive or compulsive “quirks”, tendencies, or traits, but they are not of the level or degree that it is causing them problems in their lives.
Symptoms & Features
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if you believe you have OCD. Symptoms of OCD include either obsession and/or compulsions. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, images, or impulses that are intrusive and cause anxiety; they are not just excessive worry about real-life problems; attempts are made to suppress read more
Ensuring that you have a network of supportive people in your life is critically important. There are mountains of research confirming the value and benefits of having a strong support network. Many people utilize their support network as a way to manage stress, as a means of self-care, and a venue to process and regulate their emotions. A good support system can also be a sounding board to vent to, as well as check our thinking and conclusions. Beyond simply having a network of people, it is also important to make sure you have carefully vetted them out overtime to ensure that they are safe and trustworthy. High-quality people in your support network are mentally and emotionally safe; meaning they are kind, caring, supportive, and non-judgmental. You can share things and be vulnerable knowing you will not be ridiculed, judged, or belittled by them. You also want to choose to surround yourself with trustworthy people who have proven to be honest, dependable, and reliable. You don’t have to be a social butterfly or an extravert to create a solid support system. Having 3-6 really close people is often adequate for most people.
Support networks also require on-going maintenance. Relationships that are not nurtured tend to fade and be less accessible when we need them. In today’s global economy it is more common that people will move away for wo read more
There are some people who look forward to the holidays all year and can’t wait for them to arrive. Other people enjoy the holiday, but find them to be a strain while trying to juggle all the responsibilities of their regular life, along with the additional shopping, cleaning, decorating, and cooking. Then there are some who find the holidays to be quite difficult. It may bring up feelings of grief and loss, they are simply too overwhelmed with the demands, or are set off by attempting to endure family members who trigger a lot of emotional turmoil and issues. A survey from a few years ago reported that 45% of Americans would prefer to skip Christmas. Another poll revealed that 50% of people are very financially stressed over the holidays and have a lot of anxiety over getting and giving gifts. Many begin to experience symptoms like disturbed sleep, low energy, impaired concentration, headaches, and much more. Much of our stress can stem from expectations, especially those that might be unrealistic. Lots of people go into the holidays with the idea that everything needs to be perfect. They think they need to cook up the most fantastic meals, initiate the most interesting and thought provoking conversation, and somehow make sure everyone gets along well and is respectful toward each other. It sounds lovely, but this maybe a set up for failure and disappointment. A lot of these read more