Understanding Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression, often referred to as the winter blues or “SAD” Seasonal Affective Disorder, can cast a cold dark shadow over us, especially during the colder, darker months. Are the long winter nights making you feel out of sorts, maybe tired and crabby. Seasonal depression is often linked to the reduced exposure to natural sunlight during the fall and winter months. A reduced level of sunlight affects our serotonin level and a low serotonin level in the brain contributes to depression. Serotonin is associated with boosting our mood and helping us feel calmer, more focused and all around in better spirits. This is why the winter months can cause seasonal depression.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Let’s talk about recognizing its symptoms, such as low energy, changes in sleep patterns, and a persistent low mood. Feeling more irritable, frustrated, or restless? Seasonal depression has a lot of the same symptoms as someone that deals with depression, so paying attention to the signs is important. Some other symptoms include hopelessness and social withdrawal. The winter season can cause an increase in anxiety due to reduced sunlight and colder temperatures.
Coping with Seasonal Depression
There are strategies and practices that can help navigate this challenging period and bring some needed light into our days. Like prioritizing our exposure to sunlight. Make a conscious effort to maximize exposure to natural light. Spend time outdoors during daylight hours, open curtains, and position yourself near windows. Light therapy lamps can also be beneficial, simulating sunlight to help regulate your mood. Take in as much of that sunlight as you can.
Creating a consistent daily routine can provide structure and stability that helps us regulate our moods. This includes regular sleep patterns, mealtimes, and exercise routines. Without routine there can be a sense of chaos that often accompanies seasonal depression. It is important to engage in regular physical activity, as exercise has been proven to boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression. Whether it’s a brisk walk, or a gym session, find an activity that you enjoy and can incorporate into your routine. Pay attention to your diet, as nutrition plays a significant role in mental health. Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseeds, may also have mood-boosting benefits.
Connecting with Others and Planning Fun Activities
Social support is crucial for mental well-being. Reach out to friends and family, even if it’s just for a brief chat or a coffee date. Sharing your feelings and experiences can provide a sense of connection and understanding and leaves each of us feeling less alone. Everyone is spending more time indoors during this time, so spending this time together is helpful to all of us. Planning and engaging in activities that bring us joy and fulfillment is a good way to cope with seasonal depression. Whether it’s a hobby, spending time with friends or family, or looking at Christmas lights, incorporating enjoyable activities into your routine can uplift our spirits. Family or friend movie nights during this time are one of my favorites. Ordering your favorite food, popping popcorn, or settling in with a hot cup of cocoa.
Setting Realistic Goals
Breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable goals can be helpful. Celebrate small victories, and don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t go as planned. Setting realistic expectations can prevent the feelings of being overwhelmed or irritable. Take it one day at a time and know that there is sunshine at the end of this.
By incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can take proactive steps to counteract the impact of seasonal changes and cultivate a brighter, more resilient mindset. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and seeking support is a sign of strength. If seasonal depression persists or worsens, consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional can provide guidance, support, and therapeutic interventions to help manage symptoms.