What You Should Know about Anxiety and Cold Weather

Dr. Laura Tanzini

Many people have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), more commonly referred to as the “winter blues.” But SAD isn’t only characterized by depressive symptoms. Many people with SAD also experience feelings of anxiety related to the seasons. And while Florida may experience rather mild winters when compared to the Northern states, even residents of the Sunshine State can experience symptoms of SAD during the winter months. Keep reading to learn why colder weather may be causing you anxiety, as well as possible SAD and chronic depression treatments.

Less Time Outdoors

While Florida’s winters are relatively mild, most Florida residents still have to brace themselves against the cooler temperatures. Cold is relative, after all, and for those of us who are used to sunny, warm weather, Florida winters can still feel quite cool. Because of this, most people spend less time outdoors in the winter.

Time in the outdoors has been proven time and again to be excellent for your mental health. One of the reasons for this is that your body absorbs vitamin D from the sun, which triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. A lack of vitamin D in the winter can disrupt these neurotransmitters in regions of the brain that are linked to anxiety and depression.

More Sedentary Lifestyle

Many people also lead a more sedentary lifestyle in the winter. This is partially related to the lack of outdoor activities available in the colder months but is also due to the innate desire to curl up and preserve our own warmth when it’s cooler out. Once again, exercise is scientifically proven to fight feelings of anxiety and depression, so a decrease in physical activity can cause these feelings to arise in you during the winter months.

Impact on Daily Life

While not frequently a problem here in Florida, winter can also sometimes take a toll on your day-to-day life. Icy roads and other winter conditions can cause anxiety related to your daily commute or even simply leaving your house. You may find yourself constantly checking the weather, worrying about an incoming winter storm and how it’ll trigger a traumatic event that happened while you’re driving. These little things can make the winter months very stressful for some.

Coping with Winter Anxiety

If you’re experiencing anxiety during the winter, there are a few things that you can do to cope with it:

  1. Eat a healthy diet. Many people indulge in sugary and processed foods during the winter. Try to limit your intake of these. While they may give you a quick fix to your winter lethargy, they will be short-lived and ultimately leave you feeling sluggish.
  2. Keep exercising. If you’re not up for an outdoor run in the winter, invest in a month-to-month gym membership during the colder months, or try some at-home workouts.
  3. Find activities you can enjoy during the winter. Though your favorite outdoor activities may not be available to you, try to find another hobby or activity you can enjoy despite the cold weather.

Finally, don’t just dismiss your symptoms. If you have persistent depression or anxiety during the winter, seek help. Speak to your doctor or visit major depressive disorder treatment centers in your area. Contact Kinder in the Keys if you’re in need of help or treatment for you trauma, anxiety, depression, or PTSD.


Author Bio

Dr. Laura Tanzini, DrPh, MA, MFT

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a highly educated and accomplished professional with a background in biology and psychology. She received a BS in Biology from UC Riverside, an MA in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, and a Doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Lifestyle Medicine from Loma Linda University.

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a Board Certified Professional Counselor, Integrative Medicine Clinician, and PTSD Clinician. She has worked in multiple medical hospitals, mental health institutions, and inpatient eating disorder clinics. Also, Dr. Tanzini has written scholarly papers and spoken on various topics related to nutrition, stress, menopause, obesity, depression, anxiety, and human development.