Our natural surroundings have a great impact on our mental and physical health. The temperature, weather, rain, sunlight, and the quality of the air we breathe are factors that have a direct effect on our lives. These effects could be physical and mental. As there is a strong inter-connection between our body and mind, whatever affects the one, affects the other.
Most of the natural environmental effects on our mind and body happen without our consciousness and in most cases, we might not realise that these conditions may cause mental illnesses such as depression and other mental disorders.
Scientists have named such medical conditions Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which means certain mental conditions that may occur with the change of seasons. In Sri Lanka, although we do not have marked seasons, the dry season and the rainy season have an impact on our mental health. Adding to this, the prolonged pandemic doubles the negativity that the environment may cause us. Sometimes long gloomy rainy days would make one feel lethargic for no reason, while the hot sunny dry days might make one feel lethargic and at certain times even arrogant. This lethargic feeling is not something just physical, but is also a mental condition. This is why it is a reason for concern. This mental condition affects one’s work life, eating habits, personal life, and social life.
According to research, the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) could be named as follows:
- – Anxiety
- – Sleeping disorders and/or difficulties
- – Changes in eating patterns
- – Weight gain or weight loss
- – Restlessness
Why and how does it happen?
The warm dry weather SAD, which is mainly known as Summer SAD, is caused by too much hot sunlight and dryness. Scientists say that too much sunlight distracts the production of melatonin in our bodies. Melatonin is the hormone that affects our sleep/wake cycle. The heat and humidity also can be reasons that cause lethargies. In such situations, eating disorders (this could be excess eating or less eating) can cause weight loss or weight gain, while sleeping disorders may further complicate the situation.
The pandemic has caused serious economic and social conditions which make the situation worse for those who suffer from SAD. Today we will share with you a few tips to overcome SAD and help you feel better:
Accept your feelings; it is okay to feel so
It is very important to accept what you are feeling and to understand what you are going through. It is also important not to be harsh on yourself. Always keep in mind that it is okay to feel so and you are not the only one to feel like that.
Only if you know and accept what you are going through can you find a solution for the situation.
If possible, alter or improve the environment
You can change or improve your surrounding environment making it more friendly and healthier. If the hot sunlight makes you feel sick you can spend more time indoors in a darker place. You can use black blinds or dark thick curtains to make a room darker. Keeping indoor plants and vines can also make a room cooler and greener. Use cool coloured fabric to make a room cooler and shady. If it is the rainy season and the gloomy weather is making you sick, do the opposite. Use bright coloured fabrics to make your indoor space more cheerful.
Avoid conditions that make you uncomfortable
When you are aware of and accepting of your situation, it is easy to avoid situations that make you uncomfortable. If outdoor gatherings during these uncomfortable environmental conditions are not for you, avoid them. There is no need to force yourself to go.
A good healthy diet is helpful for SAD. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and plenty of water help you keep up your well-being. Certain food has the ability to uplift our moods and enhance our energy levels.
Get enough sleep and relax your mind and body. Take time to participate in activities that make your mind relaxed. Arts and crafts, and gardening are some of the most effective and enjoyable therapeutic activities that help us keep our mental well-being.
Meditation or yoga
Meditation and yoga are solutions for many mental and physical health problems. It is helpful for SAD as well. Spare some time to meditate or practice simple yoga during the day. Choose a quiet place (make sure it is a place with a friendly environment, based on your SAD) to sit and relax.
Reach out for help
Do not hesitate to reach out for help. Sometimes SAD could be overwhelming and without external help, you may find it hard to handle. The right therapist can help you fight SAD. It is always advisable to have a good reliable friend with whom you can share your worries and reach out for help.
These seven tips will help you if you are battling with SAD and always remember that you are not the only one struggling with the situation and that you are not alone.
By Ama H. Vanniarachchy