The Winter Darkness by Aaron Corria, Brotectors

And just like 2022 is drawing to an end, the clocks have turned back and it’s dark by the time you leave work. As we all begin to adapt to the cold mornings and dark evenings, it’s important to be mindful of how the changing of seasons can affect our mental health and how we feel about ourselves.

You may have heard of SAD which stands for seasonal affective disorder, this is a type of depression during a particular time of the year due to changes in the weather which can make people feel low, tired, and completely out of sorts.  Winter for many can be difficult, we tend to spend more time at home and less time socialising and being outdoors, for many of us we may go to work when it’s dark and come when it’s dark. For someone who feels isolated and withdrawn, the thought of winter and being alone can be daunting and can lead to poor wellbeing which impacts our mental health, here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Low mood, feeling tired
  • Trouble with sleep pattern
  • Not interested in activities you usually enjoy
  • Not engaging with friends or family
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling worthless
  • Having suicidal thoughts

There are a few reasons as to why the winter months can have a negative impact on our wellbeing, our biological clock changes which means we have a decrease in sunlight a decrease in sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin levels which can lead to feelings of depression. So, what can we do to get through the winter months, when we feel our energy levels dip and our negative self-talk beginning to creep in?

  • Get some light, natural light where possible!
  • Make time to spend some time outdoors in nature
  • Avoid sitting in darkness for long periods of time
  • Get moving, even if it’s a brisk walk
  • Plan ahead for the bad times, make sure you’re stocked up with good foods and you can implement your self-care plan for the tough days
  • Get an early night – don’t spend your night scrolling up until the early hours
  • Using light devices such as a Lumi alarm clock
  • Maintain your routine, you may feel overwhelmed but keep in your routine and celebrate the small victories even if it’s just getting dressed

What’s important here is to take action and be proactive with your wellbeing and mental health, don’t fall into negative cycles and make yourself a priority, we have to be selfish with our mental health and by selfish I mean putting it at the top of the list and reaching out to have that conversation.

As friends, family members, and even colleagues we all have a duty of care to look out for one another and reach out to people who may be isolated or showing signs of depression. People who are isolated are more at risk of using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism to deal with isolation and self-medicating. If you know of anyone you think may be struggling during the winter months or you think is isolated, then reach out, make that call, send that text. You can never underestimate the power of reaching out and the difference it could make to someone’s life. Depression can lead to someone believing their own thoughts ‘’I’m not good enough, people don’t care about me, I am a burden.’’ It can be really difficult to break this cycle if you’re isolated and alone with your thoughts.

As we head towards Christmas and look forward to overindulging and spending time with loved ones it’s important, we are mindful of the stresses and negative impact it can bring if we let it. For many, Christmas is a time to spoil and impress, this can come at a cost, lots of people may begin to overspend and get into debt. Many people will binge drink over the festive period, some people will be reminded of loved ones who are no longer with us, some parents may not be able to see their children and others maybe battling a difficult illness. What’s important here is the power of communication and a person’s ability to recognise how behaviours and thoughts are affecting decision making. You can think “Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?”

We often hear the words be kind and that means be kind to others, we also need to remember to be kind to ourselves and be aware of the language we use and the behaviours we display. It’s OK to struggle and it’s OK to ask for help, bad times are temporary, and those feelings of low self-worth will pass, rest, and recover.

This Christmas take a moment to reflect of the bad times you got through and appreciate how far you’ve come through adversity. If you’re worried about someone or if you know of anyone who may find the holidays tough then give them the gift of friendship or feeling valued, send that text, make that call or have that coffee. You could be making a huge difference to someone’s life.

At Brotectors we aim to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. By creating conditions of a safe and inclusive environment, we aim to power and educate individuals, organisations, and communities through a holistic approach of support and development. We are proud to be working in partnership with MESOA; who share our passion for challenging the stigma surrounding mental health and providing men with an online community to support one another and feel safe talking about their mental health and the challenges of life.

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