7 Tips for Seasonal Depression
Autumn is often chosen as the favorite season of the year. Many become hypnotized from the sweet aroma of apple cider or pumpkin lattes. They crave the chills that make the hairs on the back of their neck stand up in celebration of Halloween. Their eyes do cartwheels as the leaves change into crimson red, burnt orange, and mustard yellow. They are in awe as the leaves dance to ground like embers. I also enjoy the return of autumn flavors, fun fall festivities, and a change in scenery.
However, I loathe the end of summer. The end of warm, gentle breezes marks the beginning of harsh, chilling smacks of wind to my face. Bright green grass laid adjacent to an array of colorful flowers at every corner. Now, I have tunnel vision from exit to entrance in hopes of not stepping in brown, murky mud. The sky, once filled with embracing rays of sunshine, now holds no hues of blue, and all we see is one flat shade of grey.
Then it hits me… As I lay in bed, I become 100 tons heavier. I do not feel one single ounce of energy. I painfully brainstorm ways on how I can drag myself across my sheets. If I can just make it to my toothbrush. Everything is dark and cold like the bottom of a basement drain. Sudden waves of sadness lead to oceans of tears. My endless need for sleep, makes me insatiable. My motivation becomes buried, and I have very little hope for digging. It is especially hard with a child. I am not just my daughter’s teammate, but I am the coach. Coaches cannot bench themselves, and it is always game time. This painful transition happens to me every single year. (Keep in mind I live in Cleveland, Ohio, rated fourth gloomiest city in America.)
So here we are, deep into Autumn where not just me, but several of my peers are experiencing seasonal depression. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a depression that hits people in the fall and winter seasons of the year. Reduced sunlight can lead to reduced serotonin and melatonin levels. These levels play a role in mood and sleep patterns. Symptoms include low energy, insomnia, oversleeping, lost of interest in activities once enjoyed, appetite changes, irritability, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
As much as I would love to pack up my life and move closer to the equator, this is not a feasible option for us at most times. For those who struggle with SAD or just feel the blues in the general, I would love to share how to battle this condition. Below I list SEVEN tips for seasonal depression!
1. Light Therapy
I had a doctor suggest to me that I buy a light therapy lamp (or happy lamp). This lamp produces artificial light in attempt to replace or at least imitate sunlight. Amazon offers these lamps in different sizes with different features like timers and adjustable brightness levels. (Click here for options!) Although I have known about light therapy for about two years, I keep procrastinating on buying the lamp. (Please note, I am very cheap. What’s the cost of your mental health though?) I will certainly buy this lamp by the end of 2019 and report back with feedback.
2. Fresh Air
Of course there is less sunlight, and the temperature drops more and more every day. This doesn’t mean you can go outside and get some fresh air. This may seem too obvious to put on the list, but it is easier said than done. If I just said I do not have the energy to get out of bed, how in the world will I make it outside? Some days you have to talk yourself through each step. First, get out of bed. Then, get to the bathroom. Next, get your coat and shoes on. Now, all you have to do is turn the door knob. Once you are outside, this last step is simply breathe. Inhale, exhale, and repeat. Trust me, it does wonders.
3. Social Interaction
Depression often leads to cancelling plans, leaving text messages on “read”, and any other way to commit to isolation. This is the time to trust your support system. Let them be there for you, just as you would want them to come to you for support. Ask your loved ones to help you hold yourself accountable. Ask your best friend to attend a yoga class with you. Ask your teammate to sit in the lobby during your therapy session. Ask your sibling to just sit and listen while you vent. I know several cases that consist of people who are struggling with their mental health sabotaging their relationships. Never forget, we deserve love from our family and friends. Let’s say you have absolutely no one to reach out to. Hop on eventbrite.com, find an event that peaks your interest, and go by yourself! This is still an opportunity to take advantage of social interaction.
4. Body Movement
Remember those declining levels of serotonin I mentioned earlier? Exercise is natural way to boost those levels back up. Not only does exercise help raise serotonin, but also dopamine and endorphins which all affect your mood! My friend and I got a 30 a day membership to Train Pretty with Chas. This class makes working out fun with dance routines to music that will have you feeling yourself. This specific class is available in the Cleveland area of Ohio. If you live elsewhere, do some research and find a class in your area that works for you! If you can’t afford a class or gym membership, there is always the option to hit up YouTube or freestyle your own routine for free!
There is always somewhere sunny in the world at any time of the year. If you know you are susceptible to seasonal depression, book your next vacation during those struggle months! Treat yourself to some sunshine, fun, and relaxation. Vacations can definitely get expensive, and they might just add more stress, right? This is where budgeting and discipline enter the conversation. Cut back on other unnecessary expenses. Set up a separate savings account. Pick up a side hustle. Download a finance app. Get advice from blogs like Cash and Curls. Figure out a plan to make it work. You work hard, and you deserve to treat yourself every once in a while!
My true passion is art. In order to feel connected and purposeful, I must CREATE, CREATE, CREATE. I enjoy painting, writing poetry, photographing, drawing, and whatever else stimulates my imagination. When I feel depressed, I get to a point where I don’t feel like doing anything. This is actually the perfect time to release my emotions (instead of bottling them up) and document them. Documenting my journey is important to me, because I will have visual representation of how every experience shaped me. For you, it might be making music, solving sudoku puzzles, knitting, cooking, and the list goes on and on. Pick a hobby, commit to it, and don’t give up if it is not perfect the first few times.
7. Volunteer Work
Life is all about balance. During depressive episodes, we often get sad or anxious about what is not going our way in life. We complain, blame, and focus on the negative. Although it is completely normal and natural to feel negative emotions, I attempt to balance out them out with gratitude. During this gloomy season, find something to be grateful for. If you are struggling with finding something to appreciate, volunteer! Depending on the cause, volunteer work reminds us of some the luxuries of life we take advantage of. Before the year ends, I will find at least one way to give back to my community.
If just one of these tips helps one person in this world, I will feel accomplished. If someone skimmed through and read the headings, I hope something sticks. We cannot control everything including our emotions, but we can take it step-by-step. Save this page as a bookmark for when you need it. Tell your support system to bookmark this page to help you when they see signs of depression in you. Share this with someone you feel with benefit from it. Let’s continue the process of healing individually and as a community.
Love and Light,