Seasonal Changes and Chronic Illness
As someone who has lived with chronic illness for several decades, I can attest that as the seasons change, things shift within the body, and symptoms fluctuate. For some living with chronic, or invisible illness, the change in barometric pressure, cooler or even cold weather, rain, and snow can exacerbate symptoms, while others may find that they feel better or less symptomatic as the warmer temperatures and summer humidity start to dissipate and wind down as the seasons shift. This has been shown to be true for those suffering with conditions such as joint pain, arthritis, headaches and migraine, and fibromyalgia to name a few. Many experience flare ups of increased symptoms and/or pain levels which are again, correlated to the barometric pressure.
Often times I joke with others that I should have been a meteorologist because I can almost always tell you when it's going to rain or snow due to an increase in chronic pain and symptoms. I have had many others agree and relate to this feeling, as they also feel their chronic illness triggered by the change in the barometric pressure and the shift in weather. While research, science, and data are conflicting as some agree that weather has an impact, while other's do not.
Our bodies get used to living in a certain climate, and when that climate changes, it can be stressful on our bodies to adapt. It's as though the shift in weather, or seasons, challenges our bodies, and for some, it is easier to adjust to than for others. This is similar to why there is an increase in colds and other illnesses during the season transitions. This is when covering our mouths, washing our hands, and staying home if we aren't feeling well can be pivotal not only for our health, but for those around us. We should all keep our shared spaces clean as well to help avoid spreading infections to others.
It can be hard to know how to dress, as the days shift quickly and the temperatures fluctuate before settling into their new seasonal pattern. Dressing in lays is beneficial at these times in order to avoid overheating or being too cold.
Another thing that happens, is a shift in the air, we turn heat on in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and the quickly alternating temperatures along with the heat and cooling systems rapidly fluctuating can dehumidify the air. This can cause the air to be filled with mold, mildew, dust, and pollen. Which can be triggering for some health conditions and can cause others.
Seasonal allergies, bronchitis, and asthma can be triggered by cooler or cold air. Those who suffer from these conditions benefit from carrying an inhaler and may find themselves needing it more often, Thanks to COVID, when I had my first episode early this fall, everyone was questioning if I "had the rona" however I knew exactly what I was dealing with, the same beast I've been dealing with for my entire life.
On top of chronic pain and other uncomfortable physical symptoms, many people also find that in the winter months their mental health may also be affected. Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. This often happens in the cooler darker months when we have less access to sunlight and can cause fatigue, social withdrawal or isolation, an increase in depressive mood, and feelings of hopelessness.
As the seasons change, allow yourself to be mindful, ask yourself what you need. Find a rhythm that works best for you. Keep your muscles warm, wrap up in a blanket, take a bubble bath, eat well, sleep well, and stay active to avoid extra stiffness. Be kind to yourself, be gentle with yourself, as each season does, this too shall pass.