By Ali Nicole

Fall is upon us and winter is waiting just around the corner. For many, that means the low moods that shift with the seasons return. While seasonal patterns of mood disturbance are challenging, there are some dos and don’ts of coping with the changes.

Don’t neglect getting sun exposure.

One common challenge in the fall and winter months is the reduced opportunities to take in the benefits of sunlight. Be it the shorter days, less visible skin, or cold intolerance, sun exposure goes down and that can mean vitamin d does too. Still make safe levels of sun exposure a priority, even if you’re not enjoying as many outdoor activities. If you’re not able to find enough time outside, consider a light therapy lamp which mimics the sun’s light.

Do Stay Active

It gets hectic around this time with school back in session, the holidays rapidly cropping up, and the year coming to a close. One of the first things that gets neglected when schedules fill up is physical activity, despite it being important for mood regulation and bodily wellness. Plan times for deliberate physical activity whether that be straight from work to the gym three times a week, walking laps through the local mall, or following along with a workout video at home—whatever you choose, don’t let it slip away.

Don’t Over-Commit

Fall and winter often bring plenty of opportunities to connect with others and pursue interests in the form of clubs, sports, PTA, holiday parties and travel, charity drives and volunteer work, cookie bakes, shopping excursions, and so much more. It can be tempting to fill up every evening and weekend with every available opportunity to avoid missing the fun or because of a sense of responsibility to do so. However, as wonderful as these activities are, doing too many of them too close together may have you running the risk of burnout. It is true, too much of a good thing is not good for you, so plan some restful nights and weekends and be comfortable with sometimes saying no.

Do Practice Mindfulness

Because of the aforementioned busy-keeping that can happen when there are so many things to stay busy with, it can be easy to go on auto-pilot. Just getting through the day is sometimes what is necessary and the brain is great about making that possible, but when it becomes habit, that’s when internal awareness stops. Practicing a mindful moment just a few minutes a day by being present in the moment without judgement checking in with your body and mind will bring awareness to when self-care, slow-downs, and positive thoughts are needed.

Don’t Wallow in Disdain for the Seasons

Here on the shore, all the seasons show up at some point—sometimes all in one day—so it can be a certainty that you will experience a temperature or weather event you’re not fond of. It’s okay not to like the cold or the snow but what is not okay is lacking acceptance in what cannot be changed. If you look at these seasons as miserable, the world around you will feel that way. Instead, focus on what you can get out of this time of the year, ways to combat what you don’t enjoy about it and put these in action, and don’t let a fleeting frustration turn into rumination.

Do Accept Support

Your feelings are valid and there are people out there who care. Talk with close friends and family for understanding, advice, or even teamwork to put healthy behaviors into action together. Loved ones are great resources for support and understanding, but a mental health provider can offer an unbiased listening ear, treatment strategies, and possibly medical intervention. Seeking out help can be tough but it is even tougher to go it alone.

Note that this information is not meant to be taken as medical advice, to treat, or to diagnose any conditions. If you are struggling with your mental health, reach out to a mental health therapist, medical provider, and/or emergency services. In Maryland, calling 988 and in Delaware, calling 211 will connect you to a crisis hotline where you can receive support and help navigating mental health services.