What exactly is Seasonal Depression?
Have you noticed a difference in yourself or someone you know during the winter months? The days are shorter, weather is colder, and it is dark outside far more than it is light. All these changes can impact people differently. Some may refer to this as seasonal depression, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This can result in a loss of energy, changes in appetite, feelings of sadness, depressed mood, and changes in sleep.
Some of these changes can feel scary, but they are actually normal. Your body responds to the time change, colder temperatures, and less sunlight making seasonal depression common. Your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, can be thrown off by the longer nights, leaving you feeling groggy and tired. Changes in circadian rhythm can also impact melatonin, which is usually secreted at night. The longer nights during the winter can impact this secretion, leaving you feeling tired and fatigued during the day. While all these changes can be uncomfortable and unsettling, keep in mind that as the days get longer and the temperatures increase this will fade away.
Wondering what you can do to help in the meantime? Great question! There are plenty of things you can implement to help improve your mood during these long winter months.
This is simple right? Can this really make a difference?
Absolutely. It’s simple and can have a HUGE impact. Your body needs vitamin D (sunlight) and exercise. So why not do both at the same time??
Taking a quick 10 minute walk around the neighborhood can greatly impact your mood and help your body get the vitamin D it needs. It’s best to do this a couple times a week, and even better if you can find time to do it daily.
Leaning on those around you (figuratively, thanks to COVID) can help during the winter months. This will help to reduce feelings of isolation and sadness.
There aren’t many gatherings due to current restrictions, but Facetime and Zoom are great alternatives. If there are small, socially distanced gift exchanges or dinners, make an effort to go. You might not want to because you’re tired or don’t feel like socializing, but these are some of the most important times to make sure that you go.
This could also look like grabbing coffee with a friend or coworker, volunteering at a local non-profit, or joining a support group. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or reach out to a therapist to help you get through this season.
With all the changes going on in our bodies during the winter months, it’s important to fuel our bodies with nutrient dense foods. This can be especially hard during the holidays because there are so many good sweets and treats around. Enjoy your holiday meals and make sure to incorporate some healthier options during the week.
Some foods that might have the best impact on your brain and body health are cruciferous veggies, foods high in Omega-3s, nuts and beans. Some examples of good veggies are arugula, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. You can eat salmon, chia seeds, and flax seed for those great Omega-3 fats. And finally, walnuts, cashews, and beans. Incorporating these into your diet will help your body get all the needed vitamins and minerals.
Find a funny movie, a comfortable sofa, and a warm blanket. Maybe even brew some coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to sip on. Embracing the season won’t fix it, but it might help you enjoy some parts of it. Maybe even splurge on a warm new hoodie to wear on your outside walks!