After September, we are pretty much shoved into being in the holiday spirit. It's getting colder outside, the Halloween and Christmas decorations are emerging in the stores, and holiday sale emails and commercials are slowly approaching. For some, this is an exciting time of year. Some are spending more time with family and coming together over food and presents.
Though this time of the year should be a joy to everyone, it's not. Everyone doesn't have a family to celebrate with, and this time of the year can bring less happiness and more depression for others. As the sun goes down earlier and we have longer nights, this kicks in the form of sadness.
Seasonal Depression, also known as Winter Depression or Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD), is a form of depression related to the changes in the season. According to Mayoclinic, SAD can start during the fall and fall into the winter months. During this time, your energy decreases, and a negative attitude increases.
Like any form of depression, some signs of SAD can manifest into having issues sleeping, feelings of guilt and shame, isolation, feeling sluggish, and more.
From my experience, seasonal depression has caused me to both lose and gain weight. I've pushed people away by isolation, and self-hate began to transpire. The only time I enjoyed myself was when the sun went down, and it got dark. I started to take sleeping pills and drank alcohol to sleep longer and became addicted to Benadryl. Overall, I stayed in the dark and slept.
Tips to Beat Seasonal Depression
Mayoclinic shares on their website that if you're feeling down for several days, and unlike yourself, it is time to see a doctor. "This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide" (Mayoclinic). Along with seeking professional help, there are other ways to beat seasonal depression. Below are the actions that I take during this time to beat the wintertime blues.
Licensed psychotherapist Teralyn Sell, Ph.D. shared with Eat This that "Winter blues is often a symptom of low serotonin. A dose of 5-HTP can not only be helpful in raising serotonin but also improving melatonin to help you sleep." Sell is correct. Supplements 5-HTP works well with increasing your serotonin levels.
Snuggle With Your Pet
Animals are great at sensing when you're not doing your best and then come and cuddle under you. Research shows that pets help us with anxiety, help us feel needed, and increase our self-esteem.
Fifty-four participants who were diagnosed with severe mental illness were involved in a 2016 study at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. All of them had been diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. As a result, 60 percent of participants placed a pet in their most important circle of supportive connections. Almost half of the participants shared that pets helped them manage their illness, a strong sense of identity, and self-worth. Altogether, pets distracted them from symptoms like suicidal thoughts.
Personally speaking, exercising has given me another form of responsibility by becoming apart of my morning routine. Sometimes during depression, you neglect your routine. So not only does exercise give you more responsibility, it gives you energy and motivation once you find the courage to get up. Grab a friend and go to the gym, walk outside, or go to the park.
Board-certified ophthalmologist Kaushal M. Kulkarni M.D., shared with Eat This that LEDs are connected to lack of sleep. "The LEDs on screens are shifted towards the high-energy, short-wavelength part of the visible spectrum." She added that "There is more and more research showing that this type of light negatively affects our sleep and may have potential long-term consequences on our vision."
Seasonal Depression, just like any form of mental illness, can be hard to deal with. Understand that asking for help does not make you weak, nor does it make you a burden. Ask for help and be gentle with yourself.