SAD Snowman

Winter Blues

Mondays are usually synonymous with “blah.” No one ever really seems pumped when Sunday is over and the new week is beginning, and everyone knows Mondays have a bad rap. But what if you had a whole month of Mondays? Or several months? For some, winter is made up of an endless string of Mondays, each one more “blah” than the next. This month we’d like to talk about depression, and more specifically, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of seasonal depression that occurs most often during the winter months, usually beginning around the fall and ending in the spring [i]. It saps your energy, can make you feel moody or irritable, and can be more than just a “funk” that happens around the wintertime. We all know holidays can be stressful, but sometimes it’s more than that. When the days grow shorter, colder, and gloomier, it can make you feel hopeless, sad, or even trapped.

If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone. This seasonal depression is common among women and those who live in places that don’t get a lot of daylight, or for those of us who are between the ages of 15-55, and for those who have a family history of depression and SAD [ii]. Symptoms of seasonal depression often include feeling anxious, tiredness or low energy no matter how much sleep you get, appetite changes especially with craving carbohydrate-heavy foods, weight gain, and moodiness [i].

Depending on where you live, winter can be long–as in, Arctic-March-Winds and Snow-in-April long. So what can we do to help relieve the strain of winter and Seasonal Affective Disorder? First, talk to your doctor if you think you may be suffering from Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. One of the most common treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder is light therapy [iii]. There are bright lights you can buy and use around your house to give the illusion of natural light, which is something our bodies and minds crave. So if you live in a perpetually rainy or snowy place, a little light and sunshine can still be found, even when you can’t book the last-minute-trip to Miami. Practicing self-care, which can be done in many different ways, also helps. Whether it’s taking the time to knit, or meditate, or bake your favorite recipe, spending time doing your favorite activities helps. Physical activity is also a big tool for helping manage Seasonal (or year-round) depression, especially aerobic/cardio exercise that gets your blood flowing, your heart pumping, and your limbs moving [iv]. It can be hard to be motivated to get moving, especially when the temperature is frigid. Luckily, the internet has brought us the gift of streaming and more and more fitness videos are available online, for free. For example, PopSugar Fitness has a seemingly endless list of fitness videos on youtube that cover yoga to cardio dance to strength training and Pilates, all at the click of a button. You can work out in the comfort of your home (in your most favorite, if not mis-matching, workout gear), with a friend or solo at any time of the day.

We all get the blues every once in a while, especially during the winter. If you find that you’re feeling sad or anxious more often than not, it could be a sign that it’s not just a “blah Monday” or a funk. Winter can feel long, cold, and lonely, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Once the holidays start winding down and the length of winter is still on the horizon, it’s hard not to feel depressed or down. But there’s hope and help out there for all of us. Speak to your doctor if you think you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression. He or she can help prescribe the right treatment, whether it be Light Therapy, an antidepressant, more physical activity or any other type of treatment to help you get feeling back on track. If you’re in need of someone to talk to you can speak to someone at the Lifeline at any time at this number: 1-800-273-8255 or if talking on the phone doesn’t work for you, you can text with a counselor via the Crisis Text Line to chat with someone at all hours on any day of the week. Remember that you’re not alone and there is always hope. For those of you reading this after December 21st just think: we’ve passed the winter equinox and the days are already starting to get longer. Spring is coming!