Seasonal Depression? What can I do?

By: Angel Steiner

The dark months of winter are officially upon us all and with it comes many things. The various activities of the season – the aftermath of the holidays, basketball games, wearing hats and gloves everywhere, shoveling snow – keep us busy, but shadow what many people suffer through in silence – seasonal depression. It is not necessary to go it alone when these days or weeks of darkness occur. It seems cliche to say, but there is help available. People are ready and willing to help and listen when the time comes. The first step is becoming aware that depression is a problem that needs dealt with. Blogger, Kate Kripke, offers a listing of 10 tips to ease the pains of seasonal depression, and there should be at least one that appeals to most anyone suffering from this troublesome condition.

1) Identify one thing that remains constant during this season and pay attention to it. For example, I go to work at 9am every morning or I take a shower every night. Keep these things at the front of your mind and keep doing them.

2) Meet your basic needs. Eat, sleep, drink water, and exercise, yes, even when you don’t feel like it.

3) Stay connected. This one may seem challenging because the first thing we all want to do when it gets dark and cold is bundle up inside our houses under blankets with the TV on. Well, do this in a group setting – have Gilmore Girls marathons with friends, host a 5th quarter party after the basketball game.

4) What do you need to feel well? Ask yourself this question every morning when you wake up. Use this as an exercise to make your brain think constructively.

5) Be kind to yourself. It is so easy to tear ourselves down especially if we are already in a depressed mood. Cut yourself some slack during these gloomy times.

6) Talk about it. Mention how you’ve been feeling the next time you get together with friends. Say something to your spouse after dinner. Talking about it most likely will reveal that there are others who are feeling the same way you are, and a support system can be created.

7) Plan ahead for these winter months. If you know you are one who struggles with the dark and gloomy days of winter, there are some things you can do in preparation for these down days. Have a meal prep day when you make multiple batches of soup or casseroles and freeze them for those days when cooking just seems too daunting. Make sure to take your nutritional supplements to keep your immune system healthy – sickness exacerbates depression. Preregister for those exercise classes while you are feeling good, so you have a sense of obligation to go.

8) Change the color in the home. This may seem trivial, but a change of scenery certainly does something for the mood. If you don’t have the money to change the entire décor of a room, maybe change the throw pillows or sew some appliqués on that blanket or even redo the wall hanging for a fresh look.

9) Just breathe. Sometimes we get ourselves so worked up, we feel like we are being choked on the responsibilities looming over us. It is in those moments when we need to pause, and remember to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, and let it go. Deep breathing exercises can do wonders in moments of panic, anxiety, and depression.

10) Keep that perspective. All of these above suggestions are easier said than done when you are wallowing in the deep dark pits of a depressed state. It is all-consuming, never-ending, hopeless, helpless, lost. Even in those darkest moments, remember these 4 little words – This Too Shall Pass. The storm doesn’t just abruptly end when you say this nor does the pain of the depression go away just because you uttered these words. What it does is give a glimmer of hope that there is an exit to the tunnel you feel trapped in.

In a Harvard Health Watch publication, the concept of light therapy was discussed as a possible tool to help alleviate depression. As I mentioned before, the lack of light does something to the brain as the seasons shift. The delicate balance of the body’s serotonin and melatonin may become off balance. Serotonin helps the body feel full and gives us our happy mood, and its production is stimulated by light; while its counterpart, melatonin, is stimulated by the lack of light and makes of feel sleepy. It makes sense why people feel so groggy in the mornings when it is not accompanied by the sunrise as it was in summertime.

Consider all these suggestions as you weave through this the changing of the seasons as they may give cause for concern with your health. Remember that you are not alone, and there is help available to combat seasonal depressions. If you are unsure if you just have a small case of the blues or if it may be something more, don’t ignore it, talk to your doctor.