We are living in an era where everything is labelled, some things justifiably in my opinion, others not so! I guess all opinions are there to be challenged, but that’s just my take on things.
One such thing that I believe has been justifiably labelled, is Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as ‘Winter Blues’ or SAD.
For those that know me, I am someone who lives life away from work, predominantly outdoors – it’s very much my happy place. My wife and I, along with our dog, spend most of our spare time during the spring, summer, and autumn months, in the countryside, walking. I am also a passionate wildlife photographer, so you can imagine I tend to spend more time outside than I do in!
During the winter months, the above is harder… much harder. Who wants to take a walk before or after work in the pitch black?
Compare this: A mid-summer night in the UK typically lasts around 7.5 hours, meaning over 16 hours of daylight. Even when we minus the ‘normal’ working day, we still have abundant opportunities to get out and enjoy some daylight hours. A winter night in the UK on the other hand, typically lasts almost 17 hours and the day starts and ends 4 hours earlier and later. Getting out during daylight hours in the winter is for most of us, almost impossible.
My mental health is definitely challenged during the winter months – not only do I lack exposure to daylight, but I also struggle to find opportunities to fulfil my passion for photography with chances to get outside in daylight hours so limited. As a result, it would be really easy for my mental health to spiral.
So how do I cope with these seasonal changes?
Self-awareness. Listening to my body and mind. Looking for alternative outlets. Giving myself different focuses and challenges.
A simple quote, that I have started to live my life by more recently is “focus on finding the solution, not on the problem itself”.
I am no expert. In fact, most of the ways that I have learned to deal with my own demons have been discovered through my experiences themselves – not always getting things right the first time, but not giving up, persisting until things improve.
That said, by far the best way of building and strengthening my coping mechanisms have been discovered by talking - sharing experiences with friends. You would be amazed how many people value these types of conversations from both perspectives.
Yes, men do talk, can talk, and should always talk.
Talking is not a weakness, it is a strength and one that may just end up being the difference.