Autism and Getting Through the Difficult Cold Winter Time

It’s now the middle of autumn, the weather is getting colder, the days shorter and winter is on the way.  Instead of the warmth and comfort of the sun, there’s the bitterness of the dark cold days.  In the warmer months it’s a pleasure being outdoors.  Doing activities like: camping, walking and cycling.  Where the children enjoying playing outside, and having fun, on trampolines or splashing in paddling pools.  In the winter all of this changes.

Autism/Aspergers and Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD is short for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  This is where you feel depressed in the colder seasons such as winter.  SAD has the following symptoms:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Sleeping for longer periods of time
  • Being tired and having a low energy for the whole day
  • Struggling to do everyday tasks
  • Feeling irritable

When looking into SAD (also known as the winter blues), there seems to be a link between it and autism/Aspergers.  There’s not a great amount of scientific research, or evidence combining the two.  But there are a number of online articles and blog posts, that demonstrate how autism and SAD could be related (shown in the research section below). Hopefully more scientific studies will be conducted in this area in the future.

If you feel you suffer from SAD, you can buy a light box specifically to help with this.  If you are sensitive to light, due to your autism/Aspergers, it might be worth testing one in a shop first, to make sure it’s not too bright.

Motivation to Get Through the Difficult Winter Time

Whether you’re autistic/Aspergers, and suffer from SAD or not, I am sure the winter will affect you in some way. Below I have listed the methods that can help to get through the difficult winter period.

  • Wrapping up warm and toastie when your outside. The more layers the better, especially around the core of the body.  As a bare minimum wear a t-shirt, pullover, fleece and outer jacket or coat.  With a good hat and pair of gloves.
  • Embracing the winter by keeping extra warm and cosy whilst your inside. Spending time next to a fire or wrapping up in extra thick clothes, blankets and using hot water bottles.
  • Motivate yourself by thinking positively. Lots of other countries have much colder winters than ours, such as Canada, Russia and Finland.
  • Try to appreciate the positives of winter time. Such as:
    • Which is most people’s favourite time in winter.  Looking forward to it, can give you the boost needed to get through the first part of winter.
    • Many people like us, with autism/Aspergers, hate changes to our routine. Our routines are much more stable when we spend more time indoors, due to the cold weather.
    • Autumnal or snowy woodlands. People who emigrate to warmer countries, say they really miss seeing the changes of the seasons.
  • Keeping vitamin D levels high. Even in the winter, it’s important to get some sun on your skin.  Which is how your body gets vitamin D.  Just spending a small amount of time outdoors, can help.  Even if only your face and hands are exposed, at the middle of the warmer days.  This small dose of sunlight, can also help you feel much happier.
  • Wearing sunglasses on bright days, as the sun is lower. Or when there is snow on the ground. Reducing sensory overload and headaches.
  • Spending time with family eating hot meals such as stew and dumplings. Plus drinking warm drinks like hot chocolate and marshmallows.
  • Looking forward to the summer, such as a booking a holiday/vacation.
  • Continue to Exercise.  As this is so important for mental well-being.  This can be done outdoors (by wrapping up more) or indoors.  It’s the perfect time to go to the gym, or take up winter sports such as skiing or ice-skating.

The winter is a tough time to get through.  Taking some precautions can help you greatly with this.  It’s easy to feel low, when you can’t do all the things you enjoy.  The winter soon passes.  Ready for spring and warmer days to return again.

References

  • Adult Aspergers Chat (2013) http://www.adultaspergerschat.com/2013/11/the-winter-blues-tips-for-adults-on.html
  • Autism Society (2015) http://www.autism-society.org/in-the-news/ask-expert-curing-winter-blues-tips-adults-spectrum/
  • Cooke ,L.B. & Thompson, C. (1998) ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder and Response to Light in Two Patients with Learning Disability’, Journal of Affective Disorders 48: 145–8
  • Light in Two Patients with Learning Disability’, Journal of Affective Disorders 48: 145–8.
  • Frei (2014) http://freisdays.com/2014/10/18/missing-four-seasons-not-only-a-weather-thing/
  • Robinson (2009) http://aroundtheautismspectrum.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/winter-blues.html
  • Telegraph (2015) http://my.telegraph.co.uk/expat/annabelkantaria/10144661/why-do-dubai%E2%80%99s-expats-return-to-england/

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