Struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

If Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog who saw his shadow) is right, we have six more weeks of winter ahead of us. For some, that may mean extra ski and snowboarding trips. But for others, it may trigger feelings of sadness, lack of motivation, and fatigue. Winter can be tough.

Still for others, their experience in the winter months is even more difficult. They suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"SAD is classified as a type of depression, major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern… roughly 5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, and it is more common in women than in men. The disorder is linked to chemical imbalances in the brain caused by the shorter hours of daylight through the winter, which disrupt a person’s circadian rhythm." (Bray, 2017, p. 51)

If you notice consistency in your symptoms of depression during winter months every year, seek out professional counseling. Just like a physical condition, it is important to treat it.

If you don’t find yourself overwhelmed with symptoms of depression but still feel somewhat down or ‘not your normal self’ here are some practical ways of getting through these hard winter months:

Scripture, Prayer, & Worship Music. Take time every day to talk to God and read Scripture. You will be amazed at how He will minister to you. He delights in you. If you struggle with certain thoughts that are negative about yourself, memorize Scripture that speaks truth to that negative belief. You can listen to worship music that will elevate your thoughts and minister to your spirit. 

Physical Activity and Exercise. When you feel down and discouraged, you might not feel motivated to exercise; you might be more inclined to binge-watch your favorite Netflix series while eating a bowl of ice cream. However, consistent exercise is helpful in regulating emotion. Yoga, running, even a dance party in your kitchen can all help.

Sleep. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Develop a bedtime ritual. You can diffuse lavender essential oils, read, or do deep-breathing or progressive muscle relaxation exercises.

Journal. Pour out your thoughts and feelings on the pages.

Spend time with friends. Who are the people with whom you feel loved and accepted? Spend time with them. Plan fun activities or meet up for a cup of coffee and conversation. If you have a date on the calendar, you will be more likely to follow through and will feel better after.

Vitamin D. Get outside for at least 15 minutes, even on cold days (as long as you’re bundled up). Go for a quick walk around your neighborhood, or if you’re ambitious a winter hike.

Most important, don’t feel ashamed of what you’re experiencing. Here at CCM, we’re a safe place for you to come, share, and experience care. Our counselors can help you come up with you own plan for self-care, identify healthy coping skills, and address some of the thoughts and beliefs that might be contributing to some of your feelings of depression.

Reference

Bray, B. (2017). A light in the darkness: For those who struggle with seasonal depression, winter can seem dark and endless but counselors can encourage coping strategies that provide hope for brighter days ahead. Counseling Today, 62(5), 50.

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Written by Hannah Wildasin, MA