Fall and winter are notoriously known as cold and flu season. Everywhere we look, there are tips for staying physically and mentally healthy during the colder months. But this is also the time to check in with our mental health. Even in warmer places, such as Newport Beach, the shorter days and longer nights can cause people to feel depressed.
The “winter blues” is not something imagined. According to the, about four to six perfect of adults in this country are affected by winter depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is brought on by the changes in daylight and is most commonly seen in the winter. Seasonal depression is real, and while it usually clears up in the spring, there are ways for those affected to make the winters less miserable.
Not everyone with SAD has the same symptoms, and not everyone who feels lethargic in the winter has SAD. In addition to the normal depression symptoms such as sadness and hopelessness, some common symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Cravings for carbohydrates
- A tendency to oversleep
- Trouble focusing
- Avoidance of social situations, not wanting to go out
If you suspect you are suffering from SAD, you should see a Newport Beach psychiatrist to rule out other possibilities (like bipolar disorder) and discuss a treatment plan. There are many ways to treat seasonal depression naturally. Even people who don’t have a tendency to get depressed can benefit from these tips.
First, try to get some light in your day however you can. The decreased levels of sunlight during the winter can really contribute to the problem. Try to take a walk outside, eat your lunch outdoors or find other ways to sneak in small doses of natural light. It will help.
If you can’t ever seem to catch the sunlight or you think you need more help, ask your doctor about light therapy. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light box or wearing a special visor for about 30 minutes each day. Light therapy is evolving as an effective depression treatment not exclusive to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Exercise. Working up a sweat gets more challenging in the winter if you’re used to exercising outdoors. But working out is mentally healthy for your body and mind in every season. If you can’t join a gym, exercise for 20-30 minutes a day with videos or online tutorials. Even a short, brisk daily “rain or shine” walk will help you feel better.
Don’t forget to get plenty of sleep. This is important for your immunity as well as your mental health. Irregular sleep can pave the way to negative thinking and emotional instability. Maintain a regular sleep schedule when you can. Keep your bedroom quiet and dark and create a ritual to help you relax, like reading a book or listening to music.
Take a break. Once or twice during the season, go on a weekend getaway or take a trip. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and feel listless. Even if it’s just an overnight trip with your significant other or a few days spent with family, the change of scenery should help boost your spirits.
You might feel like holing up at home, but socialize as much as you can to help fend off the winter blues. We are social by nature, and spending time with family members and friends can lighten our moods. If you can’t bear the thought of leaving your home, invite your loved ones to visit you.
Take Vitamin D. Most people get adequate Vitamin D from the sun during summer, but the decreased exposure to sunlight in the fall and winter can lead to a deficiency. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone health. Taking a supplement can boost your mood as well.
For some, the holiday season itself is what causes the depression. Toxic family members, living far from home and lack of money for travel and gifts are just a few things that can trigger it. The best way to deal with the holiday blues is to try and prevent its triggers.
Set realistic goals and expectation as the holidays approach. If you work full-time and have a lot of commitments, hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 30 people where you do all the cooking yourself isn’t very practical. Know what you can and can’t do,
Make a list of everything you and your family would like to do, then prioritize. This will help you feel less stressed and rushed.
Try to avoid toxic family members if you can. If you must interact with people you don’t get along with, distance yourself from them and focus on the ones you love. And if it’s truly not worth it to even be in the same room as them, don’t put yourself through it.
If you don’t have family or close friends living near you, the isolation can make you depressed. Volunteering your time or funds to a worthy organization can help. Giving back feels good and can help you feel more fulfilled.
If you’re trying all of these tactics and you’re still having signs of depression, seek help. There is no shame in it, and there is no reason for you to continue to suffer until summertime.