The winter months can have a negative effect on our mental health for various reasons.
Thankfully, there are small things we can do to help keep our mental outlook in a better state.
While these measures may seem small or even insignificant on their own, cumulatively they can have a big effect on keeping one positive and resilient.
And while it’s fine to change our behaviour slightly with the seasons, the changes brought on by the onset of winter can certainly affect our daily moods, and our overall mental health.
If you feel that your mental health has taken a knock lately, you’re not alone. Catherine Gay, Clinical Risk Specialist for Fedhealth medical aid, says that it’s one of the disease categories that the scheme is most concerned about.
“The effect of the pandemic in terms of social isolation, a very abnormal death cycle has taken its toll, plus the absence of important social and learning interactions in youngsters, you have a perfect mental health storm brewing, warns Gay adding,“It is yet to manifest fully”.
The latest Mental State of the World Report in 2022, published annually by the Mental Health Million Project, rated South Africa as the lowest ranked country based on mental wellbeing, stressing the decline of mental health among young people in particular.
At least 44% of 18 to 24-year-olds, according to the report, have mental wellbeing scores that indicate a decline in mental wellbeing.
The following are some ways that you can manage your mental health this winter (and beyond).
Connect more with people
Feeling isolated and alone is one of the biggest contributors to poor mental wellbeing. Even though winter may be less sociable, set up times to spend with the people in your life, be it friends, family or colleagues.
Take a tech hiatus
Tech may have brought us many benefits, but it has also wreaked havoc on the ways we connect with loved ones (including our children). Ban phones and laptops from your bedroom, turn them off over dinner and try to head outdoors without your phone for short periods over weekends.
Diets high in processed food and refined sugar can contribute to mood disorders, so what you put into your body is crucial when it comes to both your mental and physical health. Try and focus on eating nutritious, delicious food that nourishes you.
Exercise is another huge contributor to positive wellbeing, so even if you’re not a sporty person, try and find some sort of movement you love to do, and schedule it into your life regularly. Even just 15 minutes a day can improve your mood and give you a boost.
Lack of sleep has been associated with an increased risk of depression, so try to make your environment as conducive to quality sleep as possible – a good pillow, a dark room and no background noise can all help.
Have a support system
Beyond friends and family, you may need additional support to help manage your mental health.