This winter has been full of plunging temperatures, blustery winds, and lots of snow. With another snow storm expected to hit this week, travel plans may change and schools may get cancelled. Yet, how does the winter weather affect our mental health?
Studies show that extreme weather changes can negatively affect mental health. During times of extreme cold, people stay inside more and actually detach from normal activities. This form of “hibernation mode” can increase depression. With winter days being shorter and having limited sunshine, our bodies produce less serotonin and more melatonin. This means the neurotransmitter associated with happiness is decreased while the chemical associated with depression and sleepiness is increased.
It’s important to be mindful of how winter weather can affect your mental health and be prepared for it. Staying connected with family and friends is a good first step to take. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising daily will also help. If symptoms become more severe and you are missing work or school, having weight or appetite changes, or not being able to find enjoyment in activities, you may need to seek professional help. Some changes in your mood are to be expected with the extreme cold and snow, but be aware of any changes that become severe. Focus on the things you do have control over, take care of yourself, and remember that the weather will eventually change!
Lori Atkinson, Operations Director for The Kim Foundation
Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools from 1992 – 2000, a stay at home mom for several years, and then started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory during 2010. Lori carries out many duties for The Kim Foundation which includes: scheduling presentations in the community, hosting booths at conferences, managing the Art & Creative Writing Contest, coordinating the School Resource Fair, organizing the Suicide Prevention PSA Contest, assisting with the annual luncheon, and participating in the coalition’s community outreach group. Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.