Ahh, it's that time of year again. Can you feel it in the air? The holidays are over, night starts at 6pm, it's cold, and there's not much to look forward to til spring.
What is seasonal depression?
You might have heard the term "seasonal depression" or "seasonal affective disorder." Technically, in the way psychologists describe disorders, this is not a separate diagnosis in the depressive disorders. This simply refers to a pattern of depression that either only occurs during winter (typically) or gets significantly worse during that season.
It's not shocking that many people feel worse during the winter. Personally, I feel many of the things that make me feel great are just unavailable during winter, and I'm lucky enough to live somewhere with sunshine and rare occurrences of snow.
What can help?
If you're feeling particularly down right now, I want to provide some tips. Stick with me, because I'm about to ask a set of what will seem like dumb questions.
Take a moment to check in with yourself. When is the last time you...
Ate a fruit and/or vegetable?
Went to bed/got up on time?
Cleaned your room/home?
Spent meaningful time with friends/loved ones?
Took on a positive challenge?
Got intimate (in whatever sense of the word) with your partner?
Connected with your religious/spiritual beliefs?
Don't feel called out because I'm slacking on some of these, too. In the spring, I love biking to a farmer's market for fresh produce, and with neither of those activities happening right now, I know I'm not in my optimal state.
The reason I asked is because if these things aren't happening, I wouldn't expect anyone to feel fantastic. If you came in to see me for therapy tomorrow, these would be our starting point, so you can save a little money by getting a jump start on these.
So here's my challenge: Take 2 weeks to incorporate these things (and anything else that lifts your mood/brings you joy) into your daily schedule. Rate your mood before and after, and see if it makes a significant difference. If you're consistent and not feeling better, then it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional.
What else would you add to the list? Comment below!