National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Tips for Coping with Seasonal Depression
Over the last few years, the medical community and the general public are becoming more aware of conditions pertaining to mental health such as “depression” and its variations. One type of depression you more commonly hear of today is called SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder (Breese, 42). This is a type of depression that cycles and is usually associated with the winter months when there are fewer hours of daylight and less sunshine in general.
SAD is commonly treated with light therapy. According to Karen Breese, author of The Everything Health Guide to Depression, there is a lamp that has even been created to simulate a sunrise which helps patients to get out of bed in the morning (Breese, 44).
There are other simple solutions that can help alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder that won’t break the bank and do not require a doctor’s approval. Please note: this author is not a medical professional and these tips are not intended to replace standard doctor patient visits or treatment. Always consult with your physician before you make any changes to your treatment regimen as even certain foods and vitamins can interfere with various medications for various health care problems.
Having said that, you can safely consider the following techniques for coping with the wintertime blues.
- Simple stretches may be helpful to get your blood flowing as we tend to lack exercise in the winter months unless you have a membership to a gym.
- Adding indoor lighting such as a halogen lamp has been known to help some people. Others benefit from a few minutes under a tanning bed.
- Parents of athletes often find that they are so busy throughout the year, especially the summer, with sports, that they never get to enjoy television. This might be a good time to enjoy your favorite series. If you don’t already have one, this would be a good time to find one.
- Crafts, sewing, games, cooking and other indoor activities that you haven’t enjoyed for a while, may help you to occupy your mind.
- Music is very therapeutic. In fact, music therapy has become a formal discipline for graduate students. Perhaps there are certain songs that remind you of a time when you were happy or make you think of brighter and warmer days. Music is a quite powerful tool that can make or break anyone’s mood.
- Aromatherapy is a technique often recommended by therapists as well. Our senses often trigger our memory and our mood. Use candles scented with lilacs or cotton to bring back the spring and summer feel, get extra lighting and warm your home at the same time. Lotions are also useful. They not only moisten our dry skin but can be scented with reminders of summer like coconut scented lotion.
- Use the power of your mind. Focus on what you know makes you feel good. If you enjoy working in your garden all summer and you just can’t wait, start planning your garden for next Spring by mapping out where you will plant new flowers or create a new yard ornament.
- Plan a vacation. There are several websites available to give you ideas for vacations as well as early bird specials.
- Get back to the basics. Take care of your body by getting adequate rest and nutrition and stay on a predictable schedule. Everyone needs consistency. If you are tired all the time or lacking a balanced diet, you are not going to feel your best. Even something as simple as a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause serious depression.
- Follow the recommendations of your health care practitioner, attend therapy sessions, take medication(s) as prescribed and rely on your support system.
Sometimes implementing even one of these ideas can help. To figure out what works best, only implement one change at a time. Be consistent and evaluate the benefits. Keep a journal and note any changes to report to your doctor.
If you feel your depression is not getting better, begin feeling hopeless or have thoughts of harming yourself, get help immediately. The following agencies are available to guide you to help.
* National Mental Health Association 1-800-969-6642
* National Foundation for Depressive Illness, Inc. 1-800-248-4344