Last week our Mental & Physical Health Employee Resource Group, “The Mighty,” hosted a company wide Winter Wellness Week. The week was a part of the larger goal of the Mighty to provide a safe and supportive space where employees can be vulnerable and encouraged to discuss mental and physical health, reducing stigma and silence around these areas. The week featured an expert who discussed ways to re frame stress, community discussions, as well as newsletters to help support employee well-being throughout the winter season. This week on the blog, we wanted to share with you one of those newsletters about how the season change can affect our mental and physical health.
The mark of cold weather can be an exciting time for many because of the changing leaf colors, sweater weather, and pumpkin-spiced everything. But the shorter days and time change can also have a negative impact on our physical and mental health. “Gaining” an hour with daylight savings can mess with our circadian rhythm, or the internal clock that helps regulate sleep. As our bodies adjust to the time change, it may be more difficult to fall and stay asleep. If you’re having issues resetting your internal clock, here are some ideas to help you get more restful ZZZs:
- Turn down the lights when it gets closer to your bedtime. If you need to get up to use the bathroom, get a nightlight to guide your way rather than turning on bright lights.
- Avoid consuming alcohol or caffeine, especially close to bedtime.
- Exercise a few hours before bedtime.
- Create calming habits before bed to get you more relaxed. Maybe meditate, listen to the sweet tunes of Yanni, or drink some decaf tea.
- Avoid screens! (Or if you can’t stay away from Instagram, try using Dark Mode).
In the next few months, the loss of daylight means we lose access to vitamin D. Maintaining adequate vitamin D intake is crucial to our bodily functions and has many protective qualities, such as boosting the immune system, strengthening bones and muscles, and supporting brain and cognitive health. The cold may also spark that hibernation feeling within us all, which in turn may mean less social connection.
Whether it’s due to physiological and/or social changes, the winter season for many can lead to higher anxiety, lower energy, and/or negative moods. While it is normal to have some down days, 5% of Americans have more serious seasonal depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and may need additional help.
For others, consider trying some of these ideas to help get you out of your winter funk:
- Put on some extra layers and get outside to take full advantage of the sunlight.
- About 15-20 minutes three days per week is usually sufficient. If being outside in the cold really isn’t your thing, try light therapy.
- Or maybe book that vacation further south around the winter solstice when daylight is at the lowest.
- Maintain a healthy diet and seek out food rich in Vitamin D, such as fish, eggs, and cheese. Take Vitamin D supplements.
- Stay connected with friends and family with maybe a Movie Night or FaceTime call from the comfort of your home and PJs!
Of course, there’s no one method that works for everyone, and talking to a doctor and/or mental health professional may give you the individualized plan that best suits your needs. However, as we move towards a test and learn mindset at the Ad Council, testing and learning what works for own health can help you find the best things that support your own well-being!