Winter. Just seeing, saying or hearing that word fills me with dread and makes me shiver. To me it’s like an onomatopoeia— a word that sounds like what it means. It bears a striking resemblance to a harsh burrrrrr! Just my perspective! Some people love winter. I don’t. Mostly because I can struggle with seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the *Mayo Clinic, “[this] is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months.” Yet, knowing these symptoms will most likely not continue once winter ends does not lessen the importance of acknowledging and managing this depression.
HOW DO YOU KNOW?
SAD affects over 10 million adults in the USA according to *Boston University in 2019, and you’re here maybe wondering if you suffer from it. Are you more tired than usual? Feeling blue? Hopeless? Discouraged? Lost interest in the things you once loved? (If you are unsure if it is seasonal or something more, please consult a psychologist.) Can you relate to any of these symptoms? Yes? Now, what can you do to battle the melancholy that keeps your brain in a fog? (I am not a professional— these are just ways I have found to be helpful and I hope to encourage you with them! For more resources, see the end of the page!)
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS
Something I have found helpful for me is to know my triggers! The lack of sunshine because the days are oh-so-short and the nights oh-so-long is a huge contributor to SAD for me. I’m that person who turns their face to the sunshine and warmth to soak it all in! The inability (because I hate being out in the cold) to go outside and do all the things I love to do, plays a role in bringing me to a place of “bleh” as well. The dead landscape is yet another depressing sight. However, I have no control over the sunshine or lack-there-of. I cannot stop the bitter wind from blowing. The trees will bud when they are ready and not because of anything I do. Sound hopeless? It’s not!
LAUNCH A COUNTER ATTACK
Now, you may be asking, “What can I do about it then?” First, I would suggest to you with kindness to seek counsel if your symptoms persist and you have thoughts of self-harm. You are far too valuable to not take that step and seek the help you may need! Second, it is a good idea to see your primary care physician as well to get your overall health checked. You may have a Vitamin D deficiency – I have in the past and believe me it makes a huge difference in energy once your levels get back to normal!
Other ways to attack SAD
Get grounded. I find being consistent with reading the Word of God helps keep me well balanced. Scripture like Jeremiah 29:11 that tells me “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” gives me hope that this is just a season and God will see me through it!
Visually cue your brain. I love looking at pictures and videos of bright sunshiny beaches! They are like a breath of fresh air. The vibrant blues and greens shift my mind from cold dread to warm hope. What are your favorite images that just lift your spirits when you see them? Get them out and put them somewhere you will see them often!
Create hope. If you are feeling hopeless, then give yourself something to look forward to! Like planning a spring garden. Just seeing the bright pinks, reds and yellows remind me that spring will come! So take the initiative and begin to plan whatever that “something” is for you.
Get the blood flowing! Working out has so many benefits! One being that it stimulates our endorphins, you know, that chemical that sparks happiness? So no matter how I feel, I stick to my workout regimen because I know it helps. What steps can you take today to get your heart rate up and those endorphins flowing?
Connect. Gathering with family and friends helps break up the mundane of the long winter too. Who can you go to lunch with or talk on the phone with that will cheer you up? Or maybe be the one to lift up someone else you know is struggling right now. What a benefit to both parties!
Whatever you’re dealing with at this particular time, know that if it is important to you, it’s important. Your overall wellbeing starts with recognizing that. Don’t ignore or brush off the symptoms. It’s okay to admit you are having a hard time. It’s okay to talk to someone about this. It’s okay to take the time you need to take care of yourself! Remember that you are worth it! In the midst of the fog seek those moments to treasure, they help in tremendous ways. Admittedly it takes a little more effort to manage that right now, but they’re there. Intentionally seek those moments friends, hold them close to your heart, they will help you through your season of “bleh”!
TO SEEK HELP
AS ALWAYS, PLEASE SEEK IMMEDITE HELP IF YOU ARE HAVING THOUGHTS OF SELF-HARM AND/OR SUICIDE BY DIALING 9-1-1 OR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTOIN LIFELINE 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
*ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression#Types%20of%20Depression
* EISENBURG FAMILY DEPRESSION CENTER UNIVERSITY OF MICHAGAN https://www.depressioncenter.org/toolkit/im-looking-more-resources-1/helpful-mental-health-resources-0
*MAYO CLINIC https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
*BOSTON UNIVERSITY https://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/seasonal-affective-disorder/