It's that time of year...
The holidays are over, daylight is short, and you haven't felt sun on your body in months. If you've got a sad, gloomy feeling that's hard to shake, you may be having some symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called winter depression. Depending on where you live, 0-10% of the population experiences seasonal depression- people further from the equator have a greater risk (Florida is pretty nice this time of year).
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression with a recurring seasonal pattern. Symptoms typically start mild, and may become worse in the middle of winter. Symptoms include:
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
- Appetite change, especially craving more carbs
- Sleeping too much
- Lack of energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood swings
Hang in there, check your habits, and ask your doctor if symptoms last too long.
Don't freak out and self-diagnose!
For a mental health professional's diagnosis, a person must meet criteria for major depression during specific seasons for at least two years, and the seasonal depressions must be more frequent than non-seasonal depressions.
5 Tips to Fight Winter Blues
Check your habits first!
- Hydrate- Always my first check when something's not quite right. Just because you haven't felt hot in 2 months doesn't mean you're well hydrated! Keep a [reusable] water bottle nearby to make it easy to drink when you're thirsty- typical guidelines recommend 8 8-ounce cups per day.
- Exercise- Break a sweat! Studies show exercise is similar to antidepressant medication in patients with major depressive disorder. (Psychosomatic Medicine)
- Maximize sun time- If you go into an office building before sunrise and leave after sunset, you're going to have a tough time! Try to take walking breaks outside, and get some sun on days that fit your schedule.
- Mindfulness and Meditation- Taking a moment to disentangle yourself gives you a chance to recenter and live better.
- Be mindful- Take time to check in with yourself on how you're doing, what you're feeling, etc. It's easy to get stuck ruminating on all the things we have to do.
- Meditate- Take a time out to step back and observe your thoughts passing by. Imagine watching your thoughts like traffic. First, notice what overthinking feels like- wonder who's driving, where they came from, where they're going, the models of each car. Then, stop. Let the cars and thoughts go on their own way, and just look.
- Make plans/ set goals- Having something to look forward to helps. Make plans to do things you like with people you love (even if it's you, solo!). Keep your work calendar and action plan up to date with small achievements and major victories to celebrate.
Should you see a doctor?
This isn't a medical advice blog, so anytime you think you should see a doctor, I recommend it.
Ask your doctor if the above tips don't help, you feel unmotivated for days at a time, you use alcohol for comfort or relaxation, feel hopeless, or think about suicide.