Seasonal changes are sometimes met with some relief, but, when it comes to winter, you often hear a groan or two from many people. If you’re highly sensitive, it can add some extra layers of preparation and adjustments that, at times, can even impact mood.
This past year, in the northeastern US, it felt as if Spring and Fall showed up and left in the blink of an eye. If it weren’t for the blossoming of flowers or leaves turning and falling from the trees, we easily could have missed those seasons as they were peppered with heavy rainfalls and incredible cold spells. Some of us rolled with it while others had a more difficult time with these changes. If you’re highly sensitive, significant weather and seasonal changes may be more of an impact.
Why does winter have such an affect on the highly sensitive person? Some of this is about the change. There’s not much debate that winter brings on an extra chill, affects driving and transportation, and pushes most of us indoors to hibernate- among other things- most of which feel like great inconveniences. Some people are able to tolerate it and “grin and bear it” as they say. For high sensitivity, not only does it affect sensory issues, but also begs for acclimating to swift changes.
Spring and Fall offer us some ability to make adjustments and ease into what may sometimes lead into a harsh season (really hot or really cold). Ideally, when Fall approaches, we might run into a day here and there that require a light sweater and pants. The weather may seem somewhat predictable- there is a sense that change is slowly happening and we can prepare for that change. What if Fall were less than ideal? What if the beginning of Fall was met with some high temperatures and wrapped up with snow days? What happened to those interim days??
When you’re highly sensitive, you tend to rely on those interim days because it can really support developing tolerance to the changes. But it goes a little bit deeper because of the sensory processing involved. Let’s not forget that Spring and Fall also bring about time changes for many of us- an entire hour! You go from one day of driving home in daylight to now driving home in the dark. If you’re sensitive to stimulus (i.e. sight, sound, smell, touch) it can potentially produce a change in mood. (People sometimes also relate to the term “Seasonal Affective Disorder” which may share some similarities.)
So, there are quite a few adjustments to be made in winter for those who are more sensitive. It can affect sleep patterns, morning routines, schedules, and even building in more time to recuperate from these changes. Although most people have to make these changes, being highly sensitive may require extra energy to ease into them. Abrupt changes may also have the potential to lead to overstimulation so it’s important to stay mindful of signs that things are starting to feel overwhelming. When a feeling of being overstimulated goes unchecked, it has the potential to introduce anxiety and/or depressive feelings.
If you are highly sensitive here are some suggestions to help ease into winter weather:
- Try to develop and maintain a morning routine
- Build time in your schedule for alone time or relaxation
- Make time adjustments when possible if traveling through snowy regions
- Plan ahead when possible- laying out clothes or making lunch the night before can help
- If cold temperatures are tough, plan for layering, like a sweater, that you can put on or take off
- If you commute by bus or train, bring comforts such as earbuds, a journal, reading material, or download soothing songs you can listen to
- For work or school, build time in your schedule to have a few minutes of quiet or uninterrupted time when you arrive
- Keep up with balanced nutrition and snacks throughout the day- stay mindful of emotional eating
- Stay on top of contact with supports in your life- winter hibernation is real and can feel isolating when there are big sensory challenges
Above all, keep tabs on your mental wellness. If winter is typically tough for you mentally and emotionally, make this a priority to work on to keep yourself healthy. If you work with a therapist or counselor keep up with your appointments. If you are struggling with depressive thoughts and/or anxiety coupled with thoughts of suicide- reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day. www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Photo credit: pixabay, artist username enriquelopezgarre
Sheilagh is an Artist and Art Therapist who believes in healing with art and creativity.