Depression in the Winter
The winter months can be more challenging for anyone and their mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is very common in the winter months. The holidays are over, the days are short, and the cold is keeping everyone indoors and isolated. The feelings of depression, fatigue, and hopelessness can easily increase.
I know for me, January is the month that I have traditionally struggled the most. It is the month that I first decided a few years ago that I needed to get some help with depression. All of my negative coping skills had caught up with me, and I hit my rock bottom. I felt so ashamed and guilty because I couldn’t handle things on my own. I know now that it is nothing to be ashamed of and if you are struggling, you are not alone. The past month, I have felt low energy and sleepier than other times of the year. I don’t like cold weather, and I miss the sun and wanting to do things outside. I have all these ideas for things to blog about and write about, but then, I have no energy to actually do them after a full day of teaching first graders and adulting.
Some days, I do a better job at coping in positive ways than others. I have found a few things that are helping pull me through. Unfortunately there is no perfect formula though, and what works one day may not work the next. Sometimes, it is just a matter of doing what I can and hoping the next day will be better. These are some tips that help me the most and are all based on my personal experiences.
Non-Attachment – I can have a tendency to attach to feelings of sadness, fear, happiness, etc. It sounds strange, but depression can sound safe… it can create a numbness that helps us avoid the feelings that we don’t want to deal with. Attaching to any feeling including numbing isn’t “safe” though. I try to remember that we have to let feelings come and go, and we can feel more than one emotion at once.
Physical Activity – It might be a gentle workout like walking or stretching, or it might be something more difficult. Get outside and get some sunlight if possible. For me, yoga and meditation is on all my lists of ways to cope. I do yoga every day whether I feel like it or not, and I am always glad I did. I wake up and do 15-30 minutes in the morning. A lot of the poses that I do are my favorites and have become routine.
Gentle Nutrition – I try to nourish my body and eat all kinds of foods. I listen to my body and what it needs. This means eating enough and including foods that will make me feel better and nourished such as fruits and vegetables, as well as some soul foods like chocolate and ice cream. I try to make dinner when I don’t want to, even if it is something quick and easy. I avoid a bunch of food rules of what is or isn’t acceptable. I do limit alcohol and caffeine.
Hygiene – I try to take a shower and brush my teeth every day. That sounds like something that would be a given for many of us, but when it is hard to get out of bed… even those two tasks can be challenging. It is absolutely ok to take a rest day, however, I feel much better about myself if I do a few things to take care of myself.
Connect – This is one of the most difficult ones for me. As an introvert with some social anxiety, I really enjoy being by myself to recharge, but we are human and we also crave connection, in person connection (not social media or texts). This can seem like a huge task when you have no energy. I have to force myself out of the house sometimes to do things with friends or family. Many times, it just takes a text to get the plans started and a commitment to be somewhere.
I wish these tips would solve everything. They do help me decrease the amount of days that I struggle, but I can still have days that are harder than others. When I have those hard days, reading about what helps can help me too. When coping skills aren’t working and you are feeling hopeless day after day, just know that there is help out there. When it is hard to reach out, remember, it is nothing to be ashamed about either. Depression can affect anyone at any time.
What would you add to the list?