Opinion: Let’s be more mindful of how seasonal changes can affect mental health

March 20 signaled the start of the spring season. As the weather warms, flowers and trees are blossoming. Spring is a time for rebirth, revival and new beginnings, but don’t feel discouraged if your mood hasn’t quite shifted.

It is important to remember that while many people are experiencing the excitement and rejuvenation of the spring season, others are struggling to adjust. Society needs to acknowledge that mood disorders affect people during various stages of the year despite positive connotations associated with warm weather.

Spring fatigue or springtime lethargy refers to sluggishness, lowered energy and depression that occurs at the onset of spring. It can be the body’s natural reaction to warm weather, allergies or the result of medical conditions like seasonal affective disorder, according to professor in medicine Hayk Arakelyan.

This time last year, we were just starting to feel the effects of the global pandemic. After what we went through in 2020, I think it’s OK if you’re experiencing emotional trauma. If you’re having concerns, you should try some self-care techniques or see a doctor to talk about improving your emotional health. A gradual change in your routine could improve your mood or it may require further treatment, like therapy or medication.

Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder caused by seasonal variations in light that result in depressive episodes. While it commonly occurs during the winter months when there is less light, reverse seasonal affective disorder can occur as sunlight and warm weather become more frequent during spring and summer.

Isabel Leming, senior technician at the mental health clinic Smart TMS, told Cosmopolitan magazine in May 2018 that at least 10% of those affected by seasonal affective disorder also have reverse seasonal affective disorder.

While about 264 million people suffer from depression, a majority don’t seek help or treatment, according to the World Health Organization. If you’re experiencing emotional distress, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

An article by Harvard Medical School stated that “When low energy, insomnia, and hopelessness resulting from depression and anxiety perpetuate and aggravate physical pain, it becomes almost impossible to tell which came first or where one leaves off and the other begins.”

The emotional feelings we experience have very real physical effects and can sometimes lead to devastating outcomes.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Texas, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. Contrary to popular belief, suicide rates increase during the spring, not the winter, said Adam Kaplin, Johns Hopkins assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, in an article published by Johns Hopkins Medicine in May 2019.

It requires a conscious effort to take care of both the body and the mind to manage symptoms of depression. Exercise, eating a balanced diet, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and light therapy have been proven effective treatments that support a healthy mind, body and soul.

Personally, I’ve been slowly implementing various techniques into my routine. I also enjoy journaling or conversations with family or friends when I feel upset, stressed or anxious. But there are other techniques one can use — it’s just a matter of finding what works best for you.

Make sure to be conscious of your body’s reaction to any medication prescribed to manage symptoms. It’s important to be patient because finding the right antidepressants can take many tries, and the wrong medicines can cause more, unforeseen problems.

The emotional struggles we go through are valid. It’s not always possible to lean on others for help, so dedication to one’s self is necessary to see real improvements.

As temperatures rise, remember that while some contemplate their summer plans, others feel lost or stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle.

@katecey1

opinion-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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