We’ve all experienced the winter blues, brought on by grey skies & cold months. Leslie Malchy gives us four ways to conquer occasional seasonal depression.
Where have you been all winter?
Do you find yourself slinking away from that familiar face across the aisle in the grocery store? Do you find yourself ducking into the chips and pop section for some snacks? Do you notice yourself becoming lethargic and losing pleasure in activities you are normally jazzed to do? Feeling like your mood is starting to dip?
You may be starting to feel the beginning effects of seasonal affective disorder or SAD. This is a common syndrome, especially for cities that tend to be rainy or grey for the majority of the wintertime.
Here are four ways you can fight back against the winter blues:
Don’t believe what you think you are feeling.
Unlike much of the time when we listen to our bodies or emotions to tune into our needs, when season depression hits, you need to do the opposite. Do not act on how you feel. It’s likely you feel like staying home, getting into bed and pulling the covers up over your head. And if you listen to this feeling, unfortunately, things tend to spiral downwards and get worse.
Try to get out of the house several days a week, even if it is for a small walk or errand. It may not make you feel better immediately, but over time this tends to begin to spiral your mood back upwards.
Make plans with people…and keep them.
One of the unfortunate aspects of seasonal depression is the way in which people tend to isolate themselves. We always want to put our best foot forward and be engaged, mindful and positive when we are around other people. Unfortunately, if we don’t feel this way we keep ourselves separate for fear of being a burden or feeling like a negative force. The problem is, once we start to avoid social situations, it gets easier and easier to sink into a cycle of avoidance. The cycle becomes harder to break over time as we feel increasingly depressed and experience a sense of relief at not having to socialize.
Connect with people anyway, even if it feels awkward at first. The people in your life may surprise you by welcoming a different aspect of your experience and being open to supporting you. You may even find that other people open up to you about their struggles and you create a deeper sense of intimacy in your relationships.
Create daily structure.
If you are someone who already does this, keep doing it! If not, you may want to get help with this part. It is very easy for the hours and days to slip by unnoticed as we fall further into a depression and suddenly life can lose all sense of routine and normalcy, which tends to make people who are depressed feel even more isolated and out of sync with others.
Eat and sleep in regular intervals. Set a standard waking and bedtime and stick to it for a week or so until it becomes more regular and easy to do. Eat by the clock and not by your stomach. Most people who are struggling with seasonal depression do not feel hungry at all…or tend to overeat. Even if all you can manage is a piece of fruit or a granola bar, just nourish yourself.
Many people who become seasonally depressed tend to think more negatively, especially towards themselves. You may find yourself focused in a critical way about things that are bad in your life or wrong with you. Or you may be disappointed or angry with yourself about feeling depressed. This tends to make things worse.
Be kind to yourself. This is the most difficult task for many clients who I work with that feel that they don’t deserve kindness or worse, do not know how to be kind to themselves. Just start somewhere. Light a candle and listen to electronic ambient tunes on Songza. Go to a bakery and take in the smell of freshly baked bread. Wear a piece of clothing you feel good in. Take a walk in a park or by water. Whatever brings you a sense of peace, nurture or soothing. We need to start by making ourselves feel better, bit by little bit. This is something to practice when season mood dips occur, but also as a practice for enjoying life in general. Sometimes the most simple things can be the hardest to remember.
[image via Ryan Melaugh on flickr]