The Winter Blues – Managing Seasonal Depression

By Anne Peters, LMFT

It’s no secret: This time of year can be hard. The excitement of the holidays has passed, and opportunities to spend time outside feel scarce. On top of that, the pandemic continues to restrict our social interactions. If you notice yourself feeling like you are experiencing low energy, excessive sleeping, feeling anxious, sluggish, or depressed, or overeating, you are not alone. There’s a name for this: Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Research shows 4 to 6% of the U.S. population meets the criteria for this diagnosis, while up to 20% of us experience minor symptoms related to the change in seasons. Whether you meet that criteria or notice you just feel the winter blues, we have some steps you can take to manage the symptoms.

Take care of your body – You’ve heard this time and time again, but there’s a reason for that – it’s true! Maintaining a healthy diet is critical for both our physical and mental health. We often seek comfort foods during the cold months, which is wonderful (in moderation). Make sure to get your fill of fruits, vegetables, and protein to boost your energy and your brain.

Get moving – Not surprisingly, in the cold months we are much less likely to get out and get moving. Pull up an exercise or yoga video on your phone or bundle up and take a walk outside. Let those endorphins do their job against your blues!

Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine – Research believes the decrease in Vitamin D is one factor that leads to seasonal depression. Although a trip to the beach is simply not an option for us in the Midwest, we still have opportunities to get some sun. Noon is when the sun is the strongest. Over your lunch break, go for a short walk outside or bundle up and play with your dog. Also, get your curtains and blinds opened up and let that sun shine in throughout the day.

Let there be light – Do a little research on light therapy and talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you. I have a family member who does light therapy each day to combat the winter blues. Research shows light therapy improved mood for 60 to 80% of those who tried it.

Reach out – Finally, if you find yourself struggling with symptoms of depression and feel like you need additional support, therapy may be a good option for you. We have therapists at LSI ready to serve you, both virtually and in the office. Sometimes, we all need some additional support and we are happy to be that for you.

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