Feeling down? Here are 5 things that could be impacting your mood and some tips to deal with them

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(WGHP) — If you’re feeling the fall blues after the time change on Sunday, you’re not alone.

Millions of people across the country are dealing with ongoing issues from the COVID-19 pandemic on top of the seasonal stress that comes along every year.

Here are five things that could be impacting your mood for the worst and what you can do to help ease the burden.

Sunlight (Getty Images)
Sunlight (Getty Images)

Sunny days have gone away

The phrase “sunny disposition” is more than just an expression. There’s scientific backing to the common belief that a lack of light lowers your mood.

Spending just five to fifteen extra minutes in the sun a few times every week can make a noticeable difference in your mood for a variety of reasons.

Sunlight is an excellent source of Vitamin D, which is difficult to get enough of only from what you eat. Vitamin D reduces inflammation and can help keep your bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.

You can also soak up more serotonin, which acts as a mood stabilizer and can help you get a better night’s sleep. Serotonin works together with melatonin, which is a chemical that lulls you to sleep.

Tips

The sun helps your body produce melatonin, so sticking to a traditional day and night cycle can be a good first step to balancing out a negative mood.

You can buy Vitamin D supplements to help balance out your body’s needs if you can’t get enough sunlight during the day.

Before the freezing winter weather gets here, you can take a portion of your coffee break or lunch break outside to brighten your day a bit.

If you’re a morning person, waking up 15 minutes early to exercise or meditate each morning will help you start your day with an improved mood.

Person trying to sleep (Getty Images)
Person trying to sleep (Getty Images)

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) tends to start for most people in the late fall and lasts through the winter. About 5% of adults in the US deal with SAD, and it usually lasts around 40% of the year. It is more common for women to experience it than men.

SAD is more than the winter blues. In the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the disorder is labeled as a type of depression: a major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern.

Common symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • feeling sad more often/depressed mood
  • sleeping too much
  • changes in appetite/eating too much or too little
  • loss of desire to do activities you once enjoyed
  • feelings of guilt/worthlessness
  • trouble making decisions/thinking clearly
  • thoughts of death/suicide

People usually experience the disorder for the first time between the ages of 18 and 30.

Tips

Since SAD usually ends around the first days of spring, treatment options aren’t long-term. Light therapy, antidepressant medications, talk therapy, or a combination of all three can be used as treatments.

If you experience multiple symptoms listed above or worry you might be dealing with SAD, see your doctor discuss possible treatments that will work best for you specifically.

With the proper treatment, SAD is a manageable condition.

It’s also important for a medical professional to discern with you whether your symptoms are caused by something other than SAD.

Pain at the pump — and everywhere else

It’s no secret that the prices of common goods like gas and food have increased amid the pandemic as labor shortages continue countrywide.

Consumers across North Carolina pay between $3.15 and $3.25 for a gallon of regular unleaded, according to a survey of prices assembled by GasBuddy.

GasBuddy reported that prices on average have risen by 15.1 cents over the past month and $1.31 per gallon over the past year.

Pork prices have also risen as the US pork processing industry continues to face labor shortage problems due to the ongoing pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In September, Americans quit their jobs at a record pace for the second straight month. Many of the workers who quit moved to different jobs as companies continue issuing pay increases to fill job openings that are close to an all-time high.

The Labor Department posted on Friday that 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September. That’s about 3% of the nation’s workforce, which is up from 4.3 million in August and far above the pre-pandemic level of 3.6 million.

There were 10.4 million job openings, down from 10.6 million in August, which was revised higher.

Tips

While we can’t lower prices at the pump, we can make some recommendations to help you decrease your fuel usage so you don’t have to refill your tank quite so often.

Most cars’ fuel economy peaks around 50 mph and drops off as you speed up. By reducing your speed on the highway by five to ten mph, you can increase fuel economy by 7 to 14%, according to AAA.

Avoid accelerating too quickly from an idle position and hard braking since they lower fuel economy on the highway by 15 to 30% and 10 to 40% in regular stop-and-go traffic.

Avoid idling. If you will be stopped for a few minutes, shut off your engine in a place that’s safe to do so. A warm engine only takes about 10 seconds worth of gas to start but consumes a quarter to a half-gallon of gas while idling.

Use your cruise control as much as you can on the highway since driving at a consistent speed also saves gas.

Hands opening an empty wallet (Getty Images)
Hands opening an empty wallet (Getty Images)

‘Tis the season

Thanksgiving and Christmas both happen quickly right at the end of the year and cause familial and financial stress for millions of Americans.

There’s the need to spend time with everyone in your family, the pressure to get the right gifts, the stress over being able to afford the right gifts, the worry you might not be able to get the days off work you need and the usual travel woes which have only gotten worse during the pandemic.

The pressure to be jolly over the holidays can also have the opposite effect on your mood, according to Debra Kissen, executive director of the Light on Anxiety CBT Treatment Center in Chicago and co-chair of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s public education committee.

Kissen refers to making ourselves miserable by trying to be cheerful as the “happiness trap.”

And, as we all prepare for the second pandemic holiday season, just about every item we expect to find on the table for a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is being impacted by supply chain issues, staffing shortages, higher costs of production, scarcity, or all of the above.

As for the side dishes, the issue isn’t so much with the ingredients but rather with the packaging. Aluminum cans, glass jars, and bottles are all tied up in shipping bottlenecks on their way from China.

Others are having trouble getting labels for their products. As food makers get creative on how to cope with packaging changes and shortages, those costs can be passed on to consumers.

Even raw vegetables might be more expensive because the cost of fertilizer, much of which is imported from China, has skyrocketed. The increased cost of fertilizer makes growing corn more expensive, which means it’s then more expensive to raise chickens, turkey, and other livestock.

But what about the main course? The cost of all food is up nearly 5% from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and meat prices have risen especially high, according to Derrell Pierce, an Oklahoma State agricultural economics professor specializing in livestock.

When it comes to desserts, the same packaging problems apply to a can of pumpkin or a pre-made frozen pie crust.

Tips

While finding exactly the right-sized turkey or ham may be more difficult this year, plenty of meat options for a holiday dinner should still be available if you’re willing to mix things up a bit.

Since many desserts are canned and shelf-stable, you can buy them anytime ahead of big holiday dinners. Even some of the sturdier vegetables, like sweet potatoes, will last long enough if you store them properly.

To avoid the “happiness trap,” take a minute or two each day to consciously slow down and be mindful of how you’re feeling. You can step outside and get some sun or have a quiet, peaceful moment to yourself. Even amidst an overwhelming holiday rush, a brief break to take a breath can go a long way.

Sneezing (Getty Images)
Sneezing (Getty Images)

Break out those tissues

Flu cases were down in 2020, and fewer people came down with colds as well. Flu season typically peaks in February after spiking in December and January.

As more kids return to school this fall and winter and more parents return to the office, many experts worry that colds and the flu will make a comeback.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently shared a warning about the potential for respiratory viruses to return to pre-pandemic levels as the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to circulate in the US and around the world.

In October, the US death toll from COVID-19 passed 700,000.

The last 100,000 deaths were recorded in 3 1/2 months and happened when vaccines were available to anyone over the age of 12 who wanted them.

Overall, 18,411 North Carolinians have died from COVID, as of Friday, Nov. 12.

The CDC estimates that 36,000 people die on average every year from the flu.

Tips

Even though the flu is an airborne illness, it’s most commonly transmitted by shaking hands.

The best way to keep yourself from getting sick is to get a flu vaccine, wash your hands thoroughly and stay six feet away from other people.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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