Health & Wellness

Surviving Winter: How to Cope with Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression is a real thing. About 5% of the population experiences Seasonal Affective disorder. There are many causes to seasonal depression in the winter, such as the days being shorter, providing us with less sunlight. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that makes us feel sad. The lack of sunlight also affects melatonin which regulates sleep and our mood. Of course, we may all have our own reasons why the winter time depresses us. There could be internal factors like having to go to school, spending less time outside, or even not liking the way we look this time of year.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of seasonal depression include the loss of interest in things you find enjoyable, oversleeping, lethargy, gaining weight, difficulty concentrating, and avoiding social interaction. Many of the symptoms are very similar to depression. The number one sign you are facing some sort of depression is if you find yourself feeling sad almost daily. This is a sign it is time to seek help.

How can we stop seasonal depression?

1. Light therapy

Since a major cause of seasonal depression is lack of sunlight, an effective solution would be to add more light to your day. There are many ways to go about this. You could use a light box that produces a bright light similar to the sun, or you could purchase a dawn simulator that wakes you up in the morning with gradual light. Of course, while these options may provide more light in your life, they will not produce the serotonin and melatonin you receive from the actual sun.

2. Steady sleep schedule

This is easier said than done. Set a sleep schedule for yourself. Try to sleep around 8 hours, but if you really must, it is alright to add an extra hour or two. Whatever your schedule is, stick to it and resist napping during the day, and avoid your bed! Keep in mind if you find yourself sleeping longer, or still feel groggy during the day, it may be due to your quality of sleep. It may be best to speak with your doctor to see what’s going on.

3. Get outside!

Even though it’s not bright and warm outside, still make an attempt to see the sun every once in awhile. Take your dog for a walk, work outside, exercise outdoors. Do what you can to make it outdoors for at least half an hour every day.

4. Aromatherapy

Essential oils can influence your mood and even help your sleep schedule. Although we’re missing serotonin and melatonin during the winter, aromatherapy can help mimic those feelings we get from sunlight.

5. Go on a vacation

This might not be an option for everyone, but if you can, go somewhere sunny. Vacation can help for many reasons, aside from the sunlight. Sometimes we all need a little break from reality and could use a getaway. Take a week or two to get away and indulge in some sunlight.

6. Exercise

Even if you can’t exercise outdoors, exercise can be a great way to aid any form of depression. Exercise gets your blood pumping and your energy levels up. Exercise increases serotonin, which is something we lack during the winter. Find what type of workout you love, build a regime, and stick to it!

7. Journal

Journaling is great for all forms of depression or mental health battles. Sometimes it really helps to let our feelings out onto paper. I am a big fan of keeping my journal positive. I believe what we let out can influence how our mind thinks. If we stay positive and focus on the positives in our day, we can begin to adapt a more positive mindset. Of course, for many, it is necessary to let out all of those negative feelings rather than keeping them bottled up. That’s alright too, just make sure you also take note of what you are thankful for.

8. Vitamin D

Due to the lack of sunlight in the winter, we naturally have a lack of Vitamin D. Aside from bone growth, Vitamin D also plays a role in aiding depression by help regulating our mood. Most fish, such as salmon, contains high levels of Vitamin D. Other foods include egg yolk, mushrooms, and orange juice. You can also speak with your doctor about taking Vitamin D supplements.

9. Keep moving

Even though it’s hard, keep yourself busy with things you love. Read a book, go for a run, hang out with friends, or whatever it is. Make a schedule for yourself with things to keep you busy and out of bed, and stick to it! Get yourself excited for all of your activities beforehand. Keep your motivation up! Once you get going, you’ll likely find yourself enjoying it.

10. Speak with a doctor

Of course, if you’re feeling extreme levels of depression, none of these methods helped, or you feel your sadness carrying over into another season, it is time to speak with a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe you to speak with a therapist or medication depending on the severity. If you are feeling hopeless and deeply depressed, I urge you to please take control of your mental health, and speak with a doctor.

Soon, winter will pass and we’ll be able to soak up the sun. Until then, keep yourself going and keep your blood pumping! Use any chance you can get to soak in some sunlight and stay hopeful. Remember, if you think you may be feeling something more serious than a seasonal depression, please seek a doctor’s help. Seeking professional help could finally provide you with the tools to work through whatever you are feeling.

Here’s to a better winter!

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