How to Fight Winter Blues

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about five percent of Americans experience a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, during the winter months. Symptoms of SAD can be feelings of hopelessness, lethargy and decreased motivation to take part in pleasurable activities. More than 40 percent of Americans show some symptoms of SAD during the winter in the form of heightened anxiety and depression.

Shorter days are the culprit. Less daylight leads to lower levels of serotonin. But it may also share some roots with hibernation. Our bodies may be reacting to winter weather by trying to “skip out” on the worst of the winter and attempting to turn our brains off and sleep instead.

Now that we don’t have the holidays to focus on, it’s easy to feel down with the dark days and dreary weather. But the good news is we are past the shortest day of the year. Days are getting longer again! Unlike other forms of depression, SAD passes on its own.

This disorder tends to appear only during the fall and winter months,” said Dr. Treg Thomas, a psychologist with Corewell Health. “It does include the same types of symptoms with major depression, but when the weather warms up in the spring, it tends to subside.”

While SAD passes, it’s still a significant problem when a person is suffering from it. It can be treated with medication, vitamin D and light therapy. Seeking out medical help is essential. People don’t have to suffer silently when there are helpful treatments available.

I encourage folks to create like a seasonal toolbox,” said Matthew Martenson, owner of QC Counselor. “So, something that they can use to fill their days with value with meaning of the things that are important to them. So this could be this is a time of year that I stay extra close with family and friends, maybe we do some game nights that we wouldn’t normally do during nicer months, or maybe these are times that I explore some new hobbies, like, I finally get around to doing the painting that I’ve wanted to learn that I just haven’t had the time for.”

January, February and March can drag. There aren’t significant holidays that bring you together with family. The days are dark, and the weather is cold and dreary. So, reach out to the people around you for connections! The holidays are over, but we can still celebrate our bonds with one another. This season will pass, and the days will get long again. Until then, spend time with people you care about and do things you enjoy — it can make the time pass more quickly!

Banner image: Tobias Mockenhaupt via Unsplash

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