What is seasonal depression? And what steps can you take to feel better? Here are a few small ways to self-care and tend to your mental health.
As the days grow shorter and the nights grow cold, it’s easy to find yourself facing the “winter doldrums.”
But what about when it’s more than that?
For many, seasonal depression is a real problem. Approximately 10% of adults in the United States experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at least once in their lives.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also sometimes called Seasonal Depression, is a form of depression that most often shows up in the fall and winter.
According to The Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD include low energy levels, trouble sleeping at night or oversleeping, difficulty concentrating, appetite changes, weight gain, and general feelings of sadness or depression.
So how do you muster up the energy to fight against SAD? Here are a few small changes you can make all the difference.
- Move your body, even just a little.
A little exercise could do you right! Even if it’s cold outside, we recommend bundling up, heading to the gym, or doing some at-home yoga, if that’s easiest. Moving your body will promote healthy brain chemistry and produce endorphins. Even just 10 minutes can make all the difference.
- Spend time with people you love.
Snowy roads and cold temperatures and long nights can make it hard to get out of the house. But spending time with people you love is so important during the wintertime! Even if it’s just once a week, try and engage on any level with people you love— invite them over, meet up at your favorite restaurant, or take a walk.
- Go outside!
Find the nearest park or nature trail and keep an eye on the weather. Studies have shown that short walks in nature increase mood! Even if it’s just your backyard.
- Keep cozy things around you.
Have you ever heard of the Danish concept “hygge”? It refers to coziness that creates contentment…an important thing in such a cold culture. We might do well to imitate it! Create a comfortable environment around yourself. Buy soft gloves and warm blankets. Light candles and play beautiful music.
- Try an Epsom salt bath.
Epsom salt can soothe the skin, reduce soreness and pain, lower stress, and provide some overall uplifting vibes. Scented salts, in particular, can help you breathe easier and promote contentment.
- Take care of your plants.
Research suggests that gardening and taking care of living things can promote happier moods. Nurturing and taking care of something can help reduce feelings of depression, even if they’re just baby succulents.
- Try to keep a regular sleep schedule.
Although people affected by seasonal depression can have irregular sleeping patterns, trying your best to maintain a routine can help alleviate symptoms.
- Find Vitamin D wherever you can.
SAD is often linked to low levels of Vitamin D, the nutrient that we soak up from the sun. If it’s too cold to get outside, or you think your levels might be extra-low, you can find a supplement at your local drugstore.
- Seek mental health treatment.
If you find you’re struggling and you want to seek mental health treatment, we strongly recommend following your instinct. Talk to your doctor, seek help through a trusted friend or family member, or speak directly with a therapist or counselor.
If you’re a Veteran or Veteran family member, we would love it if you’d reach out to our Mental Health Services! The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors® provides high-quality, accessible, and integrated mental health care to Veterans and their families, regardless of role, discharge status, or ability to pay. Our services also include online therapy via our Telehealth service.
About Cohen Veterans Network: Cohen Veterans Network is a 501(c)(3) national not for profit philanthropic network of mental health clinics for post-9/11 veterans and their families. CVN focuses on improving mental health outcomes, with a goal to build a network of outpatient mental health clinics for veterans and their families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions. The network currently has 14 clinics in operation serving veterans and their families across the country. Learn more about Cohen Veterans Network.