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Coping with Short Winter Days While in Recovery

Coping with short winter days can be so difficult that they can even encourage substance abuse

You probably don’t think about the weather when you consider drug addiction, but the weather can strongly affect emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing, which in turn can affect substance abuse patterns. In general, sunny weather lifts people’s moods and improves health, while dark, cold weather tends to depress people, which can increase substance abuse. Anchorage residents who are recovering from addiction may be at higher risk for relapse during the winter, especially if the cold weather dampens their spirits, so seek help during darker times to stay clean.

Effects of Insufficient Sunlight

Sunlight provides many health benefits, so Anchorage residents who are deprived of it during the short winter days may experience the following consequences (as per the Mayo Clinic):

  • Disrupted circadian rhythm
  • Decreases in serotonin levels
  • Unbalanced melatonin levels

These issues lead some people to feel melancholy, which may have small or no effect on life. However, other people develop depression during the winter, which impacts their ability to complete daily tasks.

Methods for Coping with Short Winter Days

Depression brought on by cold weather is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but you can cope with the weather and this condition with a few skills. The following ideas can help Anchorage residents feel happier even during bleak months.

  • Exercise regularly. According to Psych Central, exercise reduces the winter blues, because it improves mood and reduces stress. For outdoor exercise, you can go for a run, bundle up for a walk, go sledding, ice skate or have a snowball fight. If getting out in the cold seems overwhelming, find ways to exercise indoors by joining a gym, taking a fitness class or by finding an indoor hobby, such as dance or kickboxing.
  • Stay socially active. When cold weather leaves you feeling blue, it’s easy to spend more time alone, especially if you feel irritable and have little desire to be around people. In fact, Anchorage residents with SAD may experience fatigue and a desire to stay home, but these factors can lead to isolation, which worsens symptoms of depression. In response, resist the urge to stay at home, and make an effort to spend time with friends and family, as these people can offer love and support through the winter months. Spending time with people you love will make you feel better, so leaving your home will help you feel less trapped by the winter.
  • Take advantage of morning sunlight. There may only be a few hours of sunlight during the winter months, so soak it up anytime you can. In his Huffington Post article, Alex Orlov describes the advice of Ani Kaylayjian, a clinical psychology professor at Columbia University, who advises people to open the curtains as soon as they wake up to enjoy the morning sunlight; as winter depression tends to be at its worst upon waking, letting the morning sunlight shine through the windows can prepare Anchorage residents for the day.
  • Continue attending therapy and support groups. If you are in addiction recovery, then you probably see a therapist and attend a support group regularly—don’t let these activities fall to the wayside because of the cold weather. If winter has left you feeling sad and isolated, then your therapy and support groups are even more important now than during the warm weather. Anchorage residents must utilize all available support to avoid relapse.

While these methods can combat the winter blues, talk to a professional if you think you suffer from SAD. You can talk to your therapist; if you don’t have a therapist, consider finding one. Furthermore, if you have health insurance, you may be surprised to find that it covers certain mental health services. Lastly, you should also talk to a doctor who can recommend treatment. For example, many people with SAD benefit from light therapy, the use of a special lamp that emulates the sun. Many methods combat the winter blues, so Anchorage residents can experience joy and wellness even when the sky is gray.


Find Addiction Treatment During the Winter


If you or an Anchorage loved one needs help fighting substance abuse during the short winter days, don’t hesitate to seek help. To learn more about high quality addiction treatment, call our toll-free helpline now, as our admission coordinators are available 24 hours a day to provide the help you need. Don’t let the winter keep you from a better life—seek help now.