Seasonal Blues, Holiday Blues, Winter Depression – that drag-down feeling that hits many of us this time of year. While some folks are happily decorating their homes, gleefully buying gifts, or merrily planning those holiday meals, others are dragging themselves from bed and rolling their eyes at one more sweet bread that appears in the employee breakroom.
If your mood tends to drop around this time of year, the two most common possible reasons are (1) Something hurtful once occurred during this time of year – the incident may have even occurred close to an actual holiday, in which case that holiday may have come to represent sadness and grief rather than celebration; (2) Seasonal Affective Disorder. Persons affected by S.A.D. experience the same symptoms as those with other forms of depression. Decreased sunlight this time of year interferes with the body’s production of hormones and brain chemicals that regulate mood, sleep, and appetite – leading to depression.
Coping with the “Winter Blues”
(1) Avoid highly processed foods, focusing on foods that once breathed or grew from the ground; (2) Only eat enough to satisfy hunger; and (3) Eat mostly vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Follow these rules for the majority of your meals to offset those occasional goodies at work or holiday gatherings. Make an appointment with our nutrition for more help.
Get Enough Sleep
Use the following recommendations and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep: (1) Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark; (2) Establish a bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities (meditation, prayer, warm bath, calm reading material, noncaffeinated tea); (3) Avoid using screen devices close to bedtime. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops excite the brain; (4) Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar within four hours of bedtime. Make an appointment with our clinic social worker for more help.
Regular exercise has been shown to be just as effective as antidepressant medication or psychotherapy for reducing symptoms of depression. For some people, exercising in the evening or night improves sleep, and for others that early morning workout helps energize them for the day!
Soak up the Sun
Our bodies need sunlight to regulate melatonin—which helps with calmness and sleep in the evening. Take a work break with two 15-minute strolls. Eat lunch outside. Exercise outdoors.
Find Ways to Relax
In today’s busy world, we rarely take time to slow down. This keeps our minds firing rapidly all day, which may make it harder to sleep at night. Practice yoga; join a meditation group; journal daily; pray more often; read something calming. Go for a walk outside and explore nature…even take pictures if you like!
Go Easy on the Booze
Many folks overdo it with alcohol during the many holiday festivities. Alcohol can bring out feelings that we usually keep buried—which could lead to more guilt and sadness. It also disrupts the sleep cycle: You may fall asleep faster, but you may awaken throughout the night, or earlier than desired.
Give More from the Heart than the Pocket
If the annual race to stockpile gifts and empty your bank account has you dreading looking for one more sale item, do something to help someone less fortunate. Volunteer with local shelters, food pantries, meal kitchens, mental health clubhouses, pet shelters, thrift shops, etc.
Seek Professional Help
If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms below in yourself, consider speaking with a professional counselor. Depression is a medical illness and treatment is readily available. Make an appointment with one of our counselors for more help.
- Feeling sad or empty
- Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious or angry
- Loss of interest in work, family, or other activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling very tired
- Not being able to concentrate or remember details
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite—usually overeating
- Thoughts of death or suicide