Winter doesn't have to be the Winner
Why So Glum Chum?
If you experience seasonal depression or what most call the "winter blues" trust me - you aren't alone - and there are reasons for that.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) hits hard on 4 - 6% of people. Another 10 - 20% are affected with a mild case of SAD and it usually rears its ugly head somewhere in a persons 20's though it is possible to see SAD in children from time to time. SAD is a mood disorder that affects an individual around the same time each year - usually when it's getting colder outside. Even though it pops back into lives in the colder months, it's actually related to sunlight and not the temperature outside.
While the exact cause is not known the prevelant theory is that when the days shorten, that decreasing amount of light screws up the body, your natural clock and your sleep cycle. These things, in some people, can trigger this seasonal depression.
To actually be diagnosed with SAD you should see your doctor and seek treatment options that way.
Fear Not - Fight Back
Even though all you may feel like doing is hitting the sack at all hours of the day so you can win the world record for best hibernation by a human being - ever - it's important that you get up, put your game face on and get going.
Here are some things you can consider to help fight back against the symptoms of the winter blues before they really drag you down:
- Relax: It may seem like all you do is lay around, but adding something like a massage to your schedule could help take the edge off. It's benefits in reducing the stress a person feels can be priceless to someone feeling so low.
- Eat Right: It might sound like a no-brainer but the mind/body/gut connection is one that should not be ignored. Ever. You might just want to keep eating deep dish because it's comforting but eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and lean proteins will help you more in the long run. And some of the options you'll find could be just as good a comfort food! Look into adding foods like turkey, walnuts, fatty fish, whole grains and even green tea to your diet. And hey, if you need dessert, dark chocolate is also a warrior that helps you fight the depression battle!
- Move it: Yep. Work out. The benefits are almost endless but when facing depression exercise, even if it's mild and only a few times a week, the endorphins that are released in the body as a result will lower stress levels, increase happiness, fight off anxiety and probably make you feel pretty good about your accomplishment of the day.
-Light it Up: Light boxes are a tool some people swear by! Grab yourself a light box (check out Amazon and other online retailers) for a size that works best for you and your life. Some people say it should be large so that you get the right amount of light from it. Turn it on in the morning after you wake up, when you get to the office, on the ride in - whatever works.You should have your eyes open and look at the light box (without looking directly into the light itself) to reap the benefits.
- Be Social: Spending more time with people you love and enjoy or going out and trying new things that have interested you will intentionally pull you out of the crappy comfort zone you have entered. If you don't want to sit around glum, get up and don't. What's the saying? Fake it until you make it? That certainly applies here.
-Remember: This too shall pass. You go through this every year and summer is not so far off. You'll get through this like you always do but this year you're armed with some tips and have people around you willing to be there. Rely on these things and friends/family to get you through. You'll be surprised how much faster the season flies by and with any luck, by how much more you enjoyed it!
When it's Worse Than All That
While you can use all the tools listed in this post to help make the season easier to get through and improve your overall quality of life, when you have a severe case of seasonal depression you can and should see your doctor. They will talk to you and help determine how serious your situation is and in some cases prescribe anti-anxiety or depression medication.
Your doctor should tell you that it does take more than one bought with seasonal depression to be diagnosed with SAD, that your symptoms will have occurred for the past two years in a row, and your sadness is not caused by one event or circumstance in your life.
You always have options. No matter how bad it might feel right now.