Seasonal Sadness or Seasonal Depression?

With the first snow coming and going, and the first 11-degree morning, I have heard many deep sighs and grumbles about the beginning of our very long (8 month) winter, guilty of this myself as well in all honesty. While the winter is simply annoying to some, for others, winter is a time where one can become clinically depressed. It is very important to differentiate this from just feeling sad or blue. Much like traditional depression, this is not a choice, it is a chemical occurrence where your brain is misbehaving, and the exact cause is unknown. This can also occur during summer as well, though this is less common.

How can I tell if this more than regular ol’ sadness?

  • Feeling down for more than a few hours or a day at a time
  • Feeling uninterested in leaving home or engaging in the things you love to do
  • More nervous/anxious/irritable than usual
  • Sleeping or eating a lot more than normal

What can I do about it?

  • All the Serotonin (happy brain chemical) boosters
    • Exercise- As simple as taking a short walk around the neighborhood or stretching in your living room. Find something that fits into your life, that is manageable.
    • Balanced diet– Don’t give up the things you love when you are sad, eat the chocolate! Also try to eat something small every few hours (especially breakfast, for you non-breakfast eaters). Add some protein, vegetables, fruits, to your carbs and you’re good to go. Now is not the time to diet!
    • Sleep– A solid sleep routine is crucial.
    • Healthy relationships and interaction with others
  • Vacation or Staycation– if you don’t have time off or it is cost prohibitive.
  • Vitamin D-Talk with your doctor about checking your Vitamin D level and adding a Vitamin D supplement, especially in the winter. Being low on Vitamin D can cause a plethora of unwanted physical and emotional side effects.
  • Light therapy- There is some research that shows this can be an effective treatment for seasonal depression.
  • Therapy- If the above-mentioned interventions are not working or you are having increased depression, consider reaching out to a therapist near you. There are excellent therapists that can see you in person, and others who are able to see you online to help you develop coping skills to manage depression. This is often not a lengthy, years long process, but can be rather helpful quickly.
  • Medication- Medication in the form of SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors can help in addition to therapy. Talk to your doctor to see if medication might be right for you.
  • If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), tell someone, reach out.

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