How to Ease Seasonal Depression During the Colder Months
The sun is starting to set a little bit earlier nowadays, and along with it comes the onset of some difficult feelings and hard-to-understand symptoms, along with the difficult battle of learning how to ease seasonal depression. Seasonal depression is more than just the “winter blues”, but instead a mental health issue that affects 2-3% of Canadian adults (Canadian Mental Health Association). Sometimes also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, seasonal depression is a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year, typically happening in the fall or winter (Centre for Addictions and Mental Health).
Symptoms of seasonal depression can look different for everyone, often lasting more than a few days and affecting the day-to-day life of those it affects. Impairing performance at work and school or hindering social relationships are often the first signs of seasonal depression, but can quickly flow into an onset of sleep issues, fatigue, changes in appetite, and withdrawal from family and friends.
Easing seasonal depression starts by having knowledge and introspection about what it looks like for you, and then taking the steps to stay on top of your emotions before the snow falls. There’s no one way to help with depression but having worked in the practice of healing the body and mind for many years, I’ve come across a few things that have helped ease seasonal depression during the colder months. Here are some of the ways that have worked for me.
1 | Bring the Outside In
It’s no secret that the sunshine that Canadians experience in the summer is dearly missed throughout the winter months. When we lose our main source of vitamin D, it impacts our ability to regulate our emotions, which in turn increases the risk of depression. There are ways that you can bring the sunshine and the reformative feelings of the outdoors into your cozy, wintery home throughout the colder months. Start by taking a vitamin D supplement to bring those vital vitamins into your body and give it a better chance to succeed with the other, harder steps to get out of depression. It sounds simple, but the change will be impactful in the long run. Bringing the best parts of summer inside with you can be hard when the snow is still falling but adding little rituals to your day like ensuring your blinds are open so you can get every drop of sunlight or using citrusy, bright aromatherapy to include all your senses in the feeling of summery joy.
2 | Find a Routine
Building a gentle routine will help pull you out of that sloth-like state, but only if you make it reasonable enough to stick to. Including movement in your every day is essential to your winter-blues routines, because movement has been proven to be some of the best medicine for mental health. Building a light structure through small, achievable goals will allow you to find a bit more balance in your every day, and in turn, stay on track with keeping your head above water during the darker, colder days. Adding movement is my absolute must-have, but other small routine changes could be setting a morning alarm, journaling to move through some of your feelings, reading a few times a week, or making yourself dinner each day (even if it’s an easy one).
3 | Talk to Someone
Staying social is scientifically important for humans and is a crucial part of fighting vagal shutdown (otherwise known as that freeze response you feel when life starts to get overwhelming). The important thing here is to make sure you’re connected in some way to the people who love you the most, because they will play a big part in keeping you rooted in the present so that your mind doesn’t lead you down a path of false narratives. Meeting your closest people in person, or even through texts and phone calls will nurture your soul in ways that will positively impact your mental health.
Easing the symptoms of seasonal depression is all about finding the balance that works best for you. Making sure that you are fueling your body and soul with positive energy while the sun starts to set earlier will give you the best chance at taking care of yourself through seasonal depression. Of course, if things start to feel too heavy, you can always speak to a therapist or your family practitioner to get the support that you need. With all of these tips and best practices, the most important thing to take away is to make sure that you are caring for your mind, body, and spirit in the ways that maintain your health and happiness - I wish you the best in finding your source of sunshine.