Winter Blues: Combat Depression with These Three Strategies
During the winter months when the days are shorter and we spend less time in the sun, it is easy for many of us to fall victim to the winter blues. For those of us who actually suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), those long winter months inevitably bring thoughts of sadness and self-doubt. Winter can leave us feeling less energetic, more anxious, stressed, and moodier. If you consistently experience these negative thoughts and feelings during the winter months, read on for some recommendations to help prepare you for the months ahead.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to prepare in advance. You know yourself, and know when you typically begin to feel the negative effects of winter. That being said, staying active or getting into a routine of physical activity beforehand is much easier than trying to force yourself once the winter blues have set in. If you do not regularly participate in some form of physical activity, build yourself a routine now that includes daily activities and exercise which you enjoy. Once feelings of lethargy, stress, and moodiness begin to set in, it will be easier for you to push yourself if that activity is something you actually enjoy doing, such as yoga, sports, biking or hiking. Building that momentum now will help decrease the power those negative emotions have over you.
Daily Sunlight or Phototherapy (Bright Light Therapy)
Many of us work a 9-5 job, making it difficult to soak in any natural sunlight. If at all possible, get out during your lunch break and spend at least 10-15 minutes outside on a sunny day. If that is difficult for you, think about investing in a light box. A light box is designed to mimic the effects of the sun which helps to ease feelings of depression by causing a chemical change in the brain. If you are considering the use of a light box the Mayo Clinic provides some helpful information on the subject and recommends speaking with your Doctor first about this option.
Being mindful in general is a great way to enjoy and appreciate every part of your life. Remember that when we are not feeling our best, it is easy to fall into bad habits, such as overeating and/or unhealthy eating. Feelings of lethargy can leave us unmotivated and keep us from exercise or socializing. Being mindful of these barriers gives you time to mentally prepare for moments of weakness when you are lacking willpower. Again, beginning a healthy eating routine along with physical activity before winter takes its toll on you will make it a lot easier to fight off those temptations when they arise.
Since this is likely something you deal with every fall/winter, being prepared is the most important part of maintaining your mental health. Take advantage of the support you receive from loved ones and ask them to help motivate you when you need it most. If you feel your symptoms are more severe seek help from a mental health professional who can provide you with the proper treatment.