“Winter Blues” versus Seasonal Depression
The winter months brought with them colder temperatures, overcast skies, late sunrises, and early sunsets. For many people living at northern latitudes, the winter climate can lead to feelings of sadness and fatigue, sometimes coined the “winter blues”. However, for some, these symptoms can be severe and impairing.
Major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern is a form of depression where symptoms come and go at characteristic times of the year. Usually, symptoms onset in the fall and remit in the spring, although some people experience seasonal depression in the summer months. Those with seasonal depression might experience feelings of extreme fatigue and increased need for sleep, as well as overeating, weight gain, and cravings for carbohydrates.
As winter transitions to spring and spring moves into summer, the days grow longer, temperatures rise, the sun rises earlier and daylight stretches into the evening. Many people, even those who do not suffer from seasonal depression, experience a boost in their mood and increased energy levels with the change of the seasons.
If winter had you feeling down, you might be expecting to cheer up as the climate continues to change. What should you do, then, if spring arrives in full bloom and you continue to feel down and groggy much of the time?
Ways to Combat Your Depression
- Get outdoors: The sunlight and fresh air can improve your mood by triggering the release of serotonin, the brain’s feel-good chemical. Spending time outside also allows your skin the opportunity to convert sunlight into Vitamin D, which helps to improve sleep and reduce pain. Finally, practicing gratitude for nature is a great way to boost mood.
- Exercise: Moving your body can help to combat the symptoms of depression by improving your sleep, focus, and energy levels.
- Communicate: Depression can be isolating. A sense of belonging is important for self-esteem and mood. If you are feeling lonely, do your best to find a safe place where you can be yourself. Join a club, take a class, or get together with friends. It is important to maintain your social relationships, even when it is hard to find the energy to do so.
- Practice self-care: Caring for those around you can wear on your mental wellbeing. Take the time to practice self-care. Meditating, journaling, or protecting time for your favorite hobby are all great ways to practice self-care.
- Find a therapist: If the winter blues fail to go away when spring has arrived, there could be more to the story of your suffering. Meeting with a licensed therapist is a proactive step toward feeling more like yourself, so you can fully experience the joys of the warmer months.