Do you notice any changes in your mood, mindset, or mental health during the winter? As we’ve heard in our virtual support group, people with PF face many challenges physically, psychologically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and more.
Here are some examples you might relate with:
- You might feel frustrated when friends, family, and others in your life don’t understand what a PF diagnosis is and entails. They may be misinformed about the facts and realities of living with PF, leading you to feel misunderstood or upset.
- You might feel physically exhausted. Breathing when you have PF can be quite difficult, so you might need help with daily activities, errands, or chores. You might not be able to participate in the activities that used to bring you joy or keep you connected to community, leading you to feel isolated or alone.
- You might feel anxious about the future or worry about your prognosis. In addition to having difficulty sleeping, your mind might be restless too.
During the winter months, these challenges can build up and feel even more distressing than usual. This is for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Flare ups or new symptoms triggered by cold air, dry air, or other changes in the weather
- Fewer opportunities for socialization or leaving the house
- Less sunlight than usual, impacting your body’s levels of Vitamin D, serotonin, and melatonin
- Less daylight than usual, impacting your mood, biological clock, and sleep patterns
- Less physical activity or exercise than usual
- Increased fears about getting sick due to flu season, new COVID-19 variants, etc.
- Increased difficulty finding PF specialists with availability in their schedules
Just like pulmonary wellness is an essential component of your health, there are additional aspects of your health that can influence your overall quality of life. This winter, we encourage you to be mindful of your mental health in particular. People with PF can experience anxiety and depression any time of year, but there are certain concerns – like Seasonal Affective Disorder – that could be needing professional attention and assistance immediately.
To start, learn about the symptoms of depression, the types of depression, and the ways to reach out for support with managing or treating it. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America has resources and screenings available to educate on these topics. They describe “depression” as a variety of feelings – such as being sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, unmotivated, and generally lacking in interest or pleasure in life – in ways that interfere with regular daily activities or last for more than two weeks at a time.
In the winter, people may struggle with different or additional symptoms. Examples include appetite changes, low energy, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, oversleeping, feeling sluggish, and having thoughts related to hopelessness. No matter how tempting it may be to brush off certain feelings as “winter blues,” it’s possible these challenges are signaling something more serious like Seasonal Affective Disorder (commonly known as SAD).
If you or someone you know is struggling from Seasonal Affective Disorder or other types of depression, there is personal and professional support available. People with depression and PF have benefitted by incorporating several additional supports to their treatment plan, such as:
- Connecting with a mental health specialist such as a therapist, social worker, or psychologist
- Attending support groups with others who can relate
- Consulting with their doctor to determine if dietary supplements such as Vitamin D can help
- Learning about nutrition and PF and making dietary improvements accordingly
- Staying physically active and finding applicable programs for people with PF, such as virtual pulmonary rehabilitation programs
- Making other lifestyle changes to help boost your health
- Trying natural and complementary therapies
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation
It is possible to address and treat mental health concerns so you can experience steady mental health all year round. That being said, please don’t be ashamed if you’re struggling in this moment. If you need extra support with your mental health this winter, you are not alone. There are still ways to increase your quality of life right now, effectively fighting PF and all its associated challenges.