Combatting Seasonal Depression
LET’S COMBAT “SAD” TOGETHER
Seasonal Depression, or as it is technically referenced, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also called winter depression, winter blues, summer depression and seasonal depression, is a mood disorder that happens in people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year. They show depressive symptoms at the same time each year, usually in the winter
Common symptoms include: sleeping too much, having little to no energy, and overeating
I occasionally suffer from this and thus wanted to share some ways of preparing for the onset of it and getting through it. The following list is what happens during the winter months and some action items to help offset the effects.
Lack of Sunlight– It is thought that sunlight increases the brain’s release of serotonin, a natural mood booster. So it makes sense that in the darker winter months you produce less serotonin and possibly more melatonin which makes you sleep. Plan your day to optimize sunlight. You may also be interested in trying out a therapy lamp. This one comes highly recommended: lamp
Overwhelming Holidays: Your soon to be in laws are coming. Maybe it’s your first time hosting. This can make you want to just hide under a pillow. I say, enlist as much help as possible! If there is someone you know that caters, hire them! Another thing, disposable decor has come a long way from when I was a child. Enhance your table at a fraction of a cost and a fraction of the clean-up. Set your focus on the reason you’re gathering in the first place.
Consumption of foods that negatively affect our chemical balance: Let’s see, Tuesday night your boss is having a party, then it’s girls night out (or in) and oh yeah, the kids want to bake Christmas cookies, and wait you still have all of that Halloween candy. October through January is a whirlwind of accessible junk food. It seems like its everywhere you turn. You have to have a survival strategy mapped out. 1) What you don’t eat, throw away immediately. Don’t ask for disposable dishes to bring food home. Enjoy it and keep it moving. 2) Throw away that Halloween candy. 3) Fill up on fibrous foods before you go to an event. 4) And if you are at home with your kids, include healthier options while you are baking the cookies. I also do monthly fasts or cleanses to help me focus on eating well.
Lack of motivation to exercise: I know, the sun is setting early, your bed is warm, and outside is cold. But you have to stay moving. With so many virtual programs like Peloton and NikeFit, working out in your home is very feasible. But if you are like me (husband, kids, and a dog) working out might be more optimal at a gym lol. Find and commit to a workout partner. Sometimes when we feel accountable to more than just ourselves, we are a tad more motivated. Have a drawer full of matching gym clothes, and fill your gas tank up at the beginning of the week. I cannot recall how many times I decided not to go somewhere in the winter because of the thought that I needed to put gas in my car lol. And lastly, shoot for a sensible goal: hit the gym twice a week and workout at home twice a week.
Lack of time in nature: Again, the sun is setting earlier and in many places, temperatures are dropping. Because of this, we might be less likely to just get outside and sit with Mother Gaia. This is unfortunate because science has proven that nature can be a very integrative force in offsetting depression. I would implore you invest in some outdoor weather gear and get outside for at least 20 minutes. Yes the trees are bare, but there is beauty in that as well. Monitor the weather in your area weekly to determine the best days to be outside and just go outside and breathe. Appreciate the crispness of the air on your face. The silence in the forest.
And most importantly, know that therapy is a valuable resource.
Whatever strategy you choose, know that you are never alone and reach out to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed.
And if you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 800-273-8255.