5 Ways the Weather Can Affect Your Mental Health

5 Ways the Weather Can Affect Your Mental Health

If you’re recovering from addiction, it pays to keep track of the things that affect your mood and overall mental health. Most people with a substance use issue also have a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and others. In addition to therapy and possibly medication, healthy lifestyle changes are key to managing these issues.

It helps to understand the factors that affect your mental health, including people you spend time with, what you eat, how much you exercise, and even the weather. While we can’t control the weather, being aware of how the weather affects your mood can help make you less vulnerable to its possible effects and allows you to make adjustments. The following are some of the ways weather can affect your mental health.

Winter SAD

One of the biggest ways weather is likely to affect your mental health is winter seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. People with a history of depression or bipolar disorder are particularly vulnerable to winter SAD. While many people experience winter blues, SAD is an actual episode of depression. Symptoms typically include depressed mood, sleeping too much, fatigue, lethargy, and increased appetite, especially for sugar and carbs. As you might expect, winter SAD is more likely to affect people in northern latitudes, where days get shorter and temperatures get colder.

We don’t know exactly what causes winter SAD, but we have some pretty good ideas. The primary factor may be that your circadian rhythm gets disrupted, since it’s common to wake up in the dark, spend the whole day inside, then go home in the dark during winter months. We need the light to wake us up and initiate the hormonal changes that keep us on a regular wake/sleep cycle. Research suggests that disruptions in circadian rhythm may significantly contribute to depression. For this reason, light therapy is typically the treatment of choice for winter SAD.

Summer SAD

While winter SAD is the most common, many people also experience summer SAD. Some people experience this as a depressive episode but whereas winter SAD depressive symptoms typically include excessive sleeping and increased appetite, summer SAD depressive symptoms are more likely to include disturbed sleep, poor appetite, and possibly weight loss.

People with bipolar disorder will sometimes experience manic or hypomanic episodes triggered by hot weather. These typically include having lots of energy, little need for sleep, racing thoughts, and starting new, ambitious projects. More severe symptoms might include delusions of grandeur, paranoia, or psychotic symptoms.

Bad Weather Can Make a Bad Mood Worse

It’s important to distinguish between a bad mood and an actual depressive episode. The former may last hours, or perhaps days, while the latter must last at least two weeks and include other symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration, and disturbed sleep. Still, a bad mood is a cause for concern when you’re recovering from addiction or depression.

One study found that if you’re in a good mood, the weather won’t have much effect on your mood, but if you’re in a bad mood, the weather can make it worse. The actual results of the study were a bit of a mixed bag because people tend to respond to weather differently. Participants did tend to report that an increase in temperature gave them more energy. Worse mood also seemed to correlate with less sun and more wind.

These effects were relatively small but still significant. What’s more, some people appear to be more sensitive to weather variations than others. The important thing is to notice how weather affects you and recognize when an oppressively hot day or rainy weather might be partly responsible for your lousy mood.

Severe Weather Is Complicated

While normal daily changes in weather have a mild effect on mood and mental health, the effects of extreme weather are more complicated. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, droughts, and heatwaves can massively increase your stress and anxiety, both as you wait to see if you are actually going to be affected by an impending disaster, or afterward when you’re trying to deal with the fallout.

These situations can trigger anxiety, panic, and depression, and they may cause PTSD, even years after the fact. A current area of active research is the effects of climate change on mental health. Early research suggests that worry over climate change may contribute to a number of mental health challenges, including anxiety, guilt, and grief.

Paradoxically, severe weather can also have some positive effects. People tend to pull together in a crisis. Donations to non-profits tend to increase and people tend to help out their friends and neighbors. Sometimes people who typically struggle with anxiety or depression are suddenly able to act with calm and focus in the face of dire need. What’s more, the challenging emotions and the more positive emotions are not mutually exclusive. You can act with purpose during a crisis and still experience symptoms of PTSD after the storm has passed.

Tempers Flare in the Heat

Finally, there’s research to suggest that hot weather may make us more anxious, irritable, and even violent. For example, one study found that people with panic disorder tended to have the most problems during the August heat and that they were more sensitive to weather changes in general. It is also well documented that rates of violent crime tend to increase in hot weather.

There may be several factors involved here. The hot weather may make it challenging for the body to dissipate heat, creating a greater feeling of stress. Hot weather may also increase breathing and heart rate, mimicking anxiety. Furthermore, we tend not to sleep as well in hot weather and that sleep deficit can lead to both increased anxiety and decreased self-control.

As for the crime, it’s also possible that there’s a greater opportunity to commit violent crimes when the days are longer and people are out. However, other studies suggest an increase in irritability and aggressiveness on hot days, so it’s likely that the heat is at least partly responsible.

Some of us are more sensitive to the weather than others and if you’re prone to depression or anxiety, it’s more likely you will notice the effects of weather on your mood. The important thing is to be aware of these effects and find effective ways to cope. As the old saying goes, you can’t control the wind but you can adjust your sails.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that a lot goes into having a strong recovery from addiction. It’s not just abstaining from drugs and alcohol, but rather about learning to understand yourself, sustain healthy relationships, and manage your emotions. These are all priorities in our treatment program. To learn more, call us at 833-801-5483.


Embracing Mood Acceptance

Embracing Mood Acceptance

In recovery, the measurement of happy, joyous and free is provided to gauge the quality of sobriety.  This can be especially true after physical sobriety is established and the addict has had sufficient opportunity to grow from the steps.  It is important to temper this perspective with the perspective of living life on life’s terms.  

Many of those who discover themselves in the life-or-death crossroads of choosing a life on spiritual terms or choosing a path of institutions, jail or death, are prone to avoiding emotional presence.  Addicts are known for using substances as a vehicle for altering their emotional state, especially when concerning “negative” emotions like anger and sadness.  A holistic perspective invites consideration that life on life’s terms means living with a full emotional range.  

Emotional sobriety can be different things for different people, so the way that one addict in recovery relates to negative emotions will ultimately look different in a recovered state than another.  For example, if in addiction, one person had a tendency to fully embrace a victim perspective about themselves and life in general, then in recovery, their actions in sobriety may be to put less attention on negative emotions than they are experiencing.  Alternatively, another person may have tended to be more of the holding-it-all-together-everything's-fine variety, the actions in recovery may be taking sometime to be with the difficult emotions.  

Being mindful that these descriptions tell the story of two extremes on a continuum, be aware that is normal for the pendulum to swing as your life begins to transform.  As the journey of emotional sobriety begins, the way that you experience negative emotions may be opposite of how you once were.  Over time, emotional expression will include the range between these states. Emotions become a living response to the present moment and are no longer experienced as a habituated response to life.

When you are newly embracing negative emotions as an aspect of living a full and vital life, be reminded that these experiences  become the gifts of wisdom that will expand your service capacity to others.  

If you are struggling with addiction, alcoholism, and/or mental health, know that there is hope. There is a solution. Harmoniously fusing together the best elements of clinical care, holistic healing, and 12-step philosophy, Enlightened Solutions has created a program of total transformation for men and women seeking recovery. Call 833-801-5483 today for information on our partial care programs in New Jersey.


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Does Marijuana Help Mental Health?

Marijuana is legalizing and medicalizing around the country. 2016 alone has seen the legislative approval of recreational marijuana use in 4 states. Many others have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana as well as medicalized it. As the normalization of marijuana grows, research continues to grow as well. CBD oil, which removes the high-inducing THC molecule from marijuana, is being used to treat cancer, autism, ADHD, depression, and more.

A recent review of research has found that marijuana can benefit mental health disorders. Social anxiety, PTSD, and depression can all be benefited from the use of marijuana, according to the review. Specifically, these mental health disorders benefit from the use of marijuana. Other mental health disorders like bipolar might not benefit from the use of marijuana as they result in more negative effects.

According to Time.com, one of the main encouragements for expanding research into the positive benefit of marijuana in treating mental health is to aid in the war on opioids. Quoting Zach Walsh of the University of British Columbia, Time cites, “If people use cannabis as a replacement for opioid medications, or to get off of opioids or cut back, we could see some pretty dramatic public health benefits.” Walsh continues to explain what millions of Americans know to be true: “The level of opioid overdoses is so high right now.”

Isn’t Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana is not considered to be an addictive or habit forming drug by most. However, marijuana use disorder has become a realistic problem. Marijuana today is stronger than it has been in previous decades, causing more a chemical alteration and creating a dependency. Regular marijuana users do experience symptoms of withdrawal without using marijuana. For this reason, recovery professionals are concerned about the use of a mind altering substance to treat the addiction to another mind altering substance.

As controversy still reigns regarding medication assisted treatment and the use of natural substances like Kratom, it is unlikely marijuana as an addiction treatment will gain traction. Additionally, marijuana, though legalized at state level for some states, is still a federally illegal drug. Until the DEA lifts the Schedule 1 label on marijuana, conducting further studies will be difficult.

 

Enlightened Solutions provides a continuum of care to men and women seeking a creative approach to treatment. Our programs combine evidence based treatment with twelve step philosophy and include holistic modalities for care. For more information, call 833-801-5483.