Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 24, 2024

Winter Wellness: How Online Therapy Can Support Your Mind and Health

Winter Wellness: Benefits of Online Therapy  

Winter blues & seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are more common during the winter season. Find out how online therapy can offer support & elevate your mental well-being. 

Winter Weather and Your Mental Health

While December is said to be the most cheerful time of the year, the shorter days and chilly weather can sometimes make us feel down. Winter months can lead to increased stress, as well as a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder or SAD (which will be explained further below). SAD affects 5% of adults in the US  and about 1% to 2% of the population, especially women and younger people.

If you’re feeling a little down this season, you are not alone. Continue reading as we dive a little deeper into the effects of the winter season on your mental health and how online therapy via Calmerry and self-care can improve your mental well-being.

How winter affects your health and mental wellness

The cold season brings a number of weather-related health issues that can negatively affect your overall health. As people spend more time inside or in close proximity with one another, colds, coughs, and flu are easily spread. Heart and skin problems may also arise, as low temperatures cause the vessels to contract and raise your blood pressure, as well as suck moisture out of your skin.

With the temperature dropping, it is also normal for many of us to want to stay indoors. It is also the time when you might feel the need to sleep longer, eat more than you regularly do, or lack the energy and interest in certain activities. Some even go into hibernation mode, which can feel lonely and is bad for overall health and well-being. 

Here are some ways the winter season can affect your mental health.

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – also referred to as seasonal or winter depression, the symptoms of SAD start to show in the late fall or winter and go away during spring and summer. According to the American Psychiatric Association, those with SAD experience mood changes similar to depression, which can be distressing and negatively affect daily functioning. Some of the symptoms include:
    • Persistent sad feeling
    • Sleep problems (sleeping more, insomnia, and daytime drowsiness)
    • Loss of interest in activities you enjoyed
    • Anxiety and irritability
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Lack of energy or fatigue
    • Feelings of worthlessness
    • Weight changes (weight gain or weight loss)
    • Suicide ideation
  • Winter blues – this is considered a mild version of SAD, which you experience during the colder months. It may cause you to feel more down and tired overall, but it does not generally affect your ability to function or enjoy life. Winter blues, furthermore, are more common than SAD, not a medical diagnosis, and go away on their own after a short amount of time.

The National Institutes of Health noted that winter blues are often associated with something specific like an absent loved one or the stress of the holiday season. Do take note, however, that winter blues can also turn into SAD. If your sadness or winter blues start interfering with your daily functioning and different aspects of life, it could be something more serious like SAD. 

How can online therapy improve your mental wellness

If you’re feeling persistently sad and lethargic during this season, Calmerry online therapy can offer relief.  The platform has licensed therapists that offer cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, which is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder, clinical depression, and anxiety disorders. Its goal is to change the negative views you may have of yourself and your environment.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy tailored for SAD (CBT-SAD) uses basic techniques such as identifying destructive thought patterns and replacing them with healthy ones and behavioral activation. The latter aims to help individuals identify activities that can make them feel good and deliberately engage in those activities to improve the way they cope during the season.

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that CBT-SAD was superior to light therapy two winters following acute treatment. Participants treated with this type of therapy also fare better than those treated with light therapy alone after one year. And with online therapy via Calmerry, it is easier to access or get help whenever or wherever you are.

Online CBT or therapy, according to an analysis of several studies, was found to be as effective as in-person CBT when treating anxiety and depression. It can improve your mental wellness by teaching you:

  • Emotional regulation – includes learning how to recognize, describe, and manage difficult emotions. Online therapy can also boost your self-awareness and self-control and help you develop healthy coping strategies.
  • Better communication skills – such as listening actively to people, asking questions, and communicating your needs and wants.
  • Improved motivation – helps you understand what causes a lack of motivation. It can help treat mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and other disorders that are causing you to feel demotivated or are disrupting your motivation.
  • Self-compassion – online CBT can be used to help reframe your thoughts about yourself and fight negative self-talk.  It can help uncover things in your childhood that are causing you to look down on yourself and work through those issues.
  • Setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them – is important in creating a guideline on how you’d like to be treated let others know what is and isn’t acceptable for you.

Why choose Calmerry for online therapy?

Calmerry provides accessible mental health support through text-based messaging and live video chat. As the sessions are held online, there is no need to travel or commute or even wait outside your provider’s office. It can help overcome barriers associated with conventional therapy such as geographical limitations and mobility issues.

There is also increased privacy, which can reduce stigma and encourage more people to seek help. Other reasons to choose Calmerry include:

  • Licensed and vetted therapists
  • Individual therapy matching
  • Plans for every budget
  • Switch therapists for free
  • Tailored treatment plan
  • Cross-device support (accessible on smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer)
  • 24/7 human-operated support

Self-help tips to improve SAD or winter blues

Apart from online therapy, there are also a number of things that can help improve the symptoms of SAD and winter blues. These include:

  • Step outside or get sun exposure whenever possible – Sun exposure is said to increase your serotonin or the hormone that balances your mood and helps you feel calm yet focused. It is ideal to spend some time outdoors within two hours of waking up in the morning or arrange your home/office so you are exposed to a window that receives a good amount of sun. Just do take note, however, that prolonged sun exposure can increase your risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine – A chilly weather may prompt you to stay inside and cut out exercise from your routine. Engaging in physical activity, however, can help release endorphins or the feel-good hormones that can lift your mood and help relieve pain. It is also worth knowing that physical activity may help reduce depression symptoms, according to research.
  • Get adequate sleep –  Quality sleep resets and repairs the mind, as well as helps you manage depression and other mental health issues. It is best to aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep at night and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. If you, however, are suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders, see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
  • Mind your diet – Fill your diet with colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. A healthy diet gives you more than energy; it also makes you feel alert and helps you think clearly. The Mediterranean diet, for instance, was found to be associated with a lower risk of developing depressive symptoms.

Does the winter season bring you down? Taking better care of your body and being social can help improve and manage your mood. You can also consider Calmerry online therapy, especially if you’re noticing symptoms of SAD or are dealing with anxiety and depression.

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