The holiday season can be a joyous and sometimes difficult time of year. The winter months bring along the beauty of decorated houses, holiday excitement, and time with loved ones. They also can bring along the difficulties of decrease in temperatures, shorter days and longer nights, increase in financial stressors, increase in pressures to make resolutions for the new year, or sadness due to the loss of loved ones that are no longer here to experience the holidays.
All of these factors as well as many more contribute to seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD occurs when the body reacts to changing seasons by triggering sad feelings and an overall decline in mood. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to 500,000 Americans may have SAD. This type of depression occurs more often in northern areas, where winter days are shorter, or in climates with a lot of cloudy or foggy weather during the winter months.
Whatever the reasons may be, seasonal depression is as overwhelming and debilitating as any other depressive disorder. To help you during this season we have developed a quick list of ways to overcome the winter time blues.
- Expose yourself to as much bright light as possible. If that means sitting outside in the cold with your jacket and hat for 15-minutes then let your body soak in the sunlight. It could also mean turning on more lights throughout your home.
- You can also utilize light therapy techniques by purchasing an indoor light box.
- Maintain a support system through phone calls, emails, and gatherings.
- Continue to engage in movement. It can be anything from dancing in your living room to taking walks and enjoying the lighted houses within your neighborhood. No matter what it is incorporate consistent movement into your daily routine.
- Make it a point to highlight one positive thing about yourself or your life throughout the day. If you shoot for 3x per day then do one when you wake up, one when you eat lunch, and one when you go to bed. (Ex. I enjoyed having a good night of sleep. At lunch, I enjoyed listening to music on my way to work. At bedtime, I enjoyed taking a walk with my dog.)
- Socialize with others. Even if at first you do not feel like it. You will be glad you did.
- Use this time to do the things you love. Listen to your favorite music, read a book, and nurture yourself.
- Maintain a balanced eating routine. Treat yourself to a holiday cookie. Just treat yourself to one rather than 20 cookies in one sitting. Everything in moderation helps lead to a balanced life.
Here are some links to additional resources and tips: