If you've heard anything about the Pacific Northwest, it's that our views are remarkable, filled with many vibrant communities and a unique PNW lifestyle. However, along with the region's natural beauty, this happens to be the prime location for what locals and newcomers are familiar with as the PNW gloom. This atmospheric condition casts a shadow over the entire region, and can have heavy effects for all residents.
With the variety of seasons fully experienced here in the PNW, those that live here are unique and dress for whatever weather we may receive. The whole socks with sandals guy, yeah, that's a real thing. In fact, last week it was my fashion of choice. With the prolonged periods of overcast skies and rain, though not as much as the majority nation believes, can create a sense of gloom and impact the mood and mental state of locals. It's important to recognize that while this occurs greater in the PNW population, it is not exclusive to this region.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can contribute to the development or exacerbation of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression linked to changes in seasons. Through reduced exposure to sunlight and vitamin D, as we experience in the PNW, people may experience lower serotonin levels, low mood, fatigue and anxiety. It's me, I'm people.
Environmentally, the cloud coverage and limited sunlight can make it challenging for individuals dealing with anxiety and depression. We, as humans, are just glorified plants seeking our to fill our needs in order to thrive. With the lack of vitamin D other aspects of life start to be affected as well. Disruptions in the natural circadian rhythm, disruptive sleep patterns, and reduces motivation making it even harder to thrive being SAD in Washington.
Now, I'd like to take a moment and tell you what my therapist suggested for me. First, light therapy, an artificial lamp when used in the morning can help regulate your body's internal clock and boost your mood to decrease symptoms of SAD. I have tried this, and honestly just felt like I couldn't move around (which with my ADD was not happening).
Ironically, the physical step to conquering your low mood is to embrace outdoor activities. While the PNW gloom may deter some from outdoor activities, it's important to embrace nature and engage in activities that bring you joy. Exploring the lush forests and scenic hikes, an interconnectedness to the environment can alleviate symptoms of SAD, anxiety and depression. No, the weather isn't always nice in western Washington, it makes the moments of sunshine that much sweeter.
Remember to practice self-care and prioritize your mental health. Establish routines that include activities, like hiking or walking in nature. Engage with your family and friends, support groups or even seek guidance. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Taking the time of oneself allows for reflection, relaxation and the development of coping mechanisms.
Additionally, seeking professional help is always available and can be a very valuable source in guidance, reflection , therapy or medication if necessary. Coping through the PNW gloom season is difficult and we don't have to allow anxiety and depression to keep hold on us. By acknowledging the gloomy weather in the Pacific Northwest, we can proactively address our mental health and steps to embrace self-care practices.
Remember, you are not alone, and there is hope even in the gloomiest of days.