While some consider the holidays to be a time of warmth and cheer, others will ask themselves: “If it’s ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ then why do I feel so sad?”
If you experience hopelessness, loneliness, and mood swings during the winter months, know that you are not alone! You may be experiencing the “holiday blues” or seasonal depression. Now called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this condition is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year, most often beginning in fall and lasting throughout winter. Additional symptoms include lack of concentration, weight gain, social isolation, sleep difficulty, and appetite changes.
Although it may be surprising for some, there are several factors that can lead to these symptoms. During the winter months, the level of sunshine is greatly reduced, triggering feelings of depression among those with this disorder. The change in season can also have an effect on the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm. One also may be spending less time outdoors and more time inside, due to the cold weather and family time. For some, spending time with family is a dreaded activity, far from a highlight of the holiday season. However, some may be feeling down because of a lack of family time if they’re away from home, whether they be away in another state or country. All of these factors contribute to a disruption in the body’s production of Serotonin and Melatonin, seeing a drastic decrease in mood.
If you feel that you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, there are endless remedies out there for you!
Therapy is a great way to help you find actionable solutions to your feelings, while also understanding why you’re having them.Try finding a local therapist in your area using the Psychology Today directory. It can take several tries to find someone that fits your needs, but don’t let that discourage you; there are plenty out there!
By training the brain to focus differently, mediation can be a huge help when it comes to depression. There are many ways to get started, and it’s easy to find a free way to meditate! Download the Insight Timer app to choose between hundreds of guided meditations, some being specifically for depression.
While it may seem hard to get out of bed on a bad day, any form of exercise can be a huge help to your headspace almost instantly. Even if it’s going for a short walk, moving the body is a sure way to increase serotonin levels and release endorphins to help boost mood!
Yoga is an ancient healing practice that combines the effects of meditation and exercise. Try specific poses for depression. In addition, there are online classes available at Gaia and Yoga International. To find a local class in your area, search on the Yoga Alliance Directory.
- Light Therapy
Specific SAD lights are used to restore your experience of natural light in your home during the gray winter months where the sun rarely shines. Make sure to find the right one for you!
- Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, has been shown to help with depression and is often used as an over-the-counter remedy. Try treating yourself to a hot Epsom Salt bath, which has the added benefit of warming you up after a cold day!
- Essential Oils
Using different essential oils for depression can help boost mood. Diffuse the oils using a diffuser for a boost in energy!
- CBD Oil
CBD oil is a non-psychoactive, safe and natural oil extracted from marijuana plants. Research shows that this oil has similar effects to antidepressants without harmful side effects. Try ingesting it or rubbing it on your skin in small doses! However, before attempting to purchase CBD oil, make sure that you are aware of the laws and restrictions on the substance in your area.
- Crisis Hotlines
Depression can often lead to some worrying thoughts, especially without the proper support. If you need to talk to someone, there are hotlines you can call including but not limited to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Use any of these methods and feel free to mix-and-match! Be proud of yourself for taking these first few steps and know that you always have the power to improve your well-being during these times. ☺
by Monica Larrea