What is Seasonal Depression & What Should You Do About it?
Recently I asked how you were feeling right now. I did it firstly, because I care, but also because I wanted to see if you were feeling the same too. Right now around the world, millions of people are struggling with seasonal depression. It differs from our broader, clinical understanding of what depression is, but it affects you just as much. Low moods, feelings of emptiness, uncertainty, and lack of caring… What you need to know is that these feelings are common.
But what is seasonal depression and what should you do about it? That’s what I’m here to share with you.
What is seasonal depression?
Seasonal depression, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that relates to the changes in seasons and tends to occur around the same time as these changes. While many people feel a bit sad when summer ends, for people living with SAD, these experiences can be more challenging and draining. Because it’s ‘normal’ to feel that sadness when summer ends, seasonal depression can often go unrecognized. And when left unrecognized, it can become overwhelming and lead to a crisis point.
How is seasonal depression different from ‘normal’ depression?
SAD typically relates to changes in the seasons, so patterns in the intensity of depression can be observed around these times, especially heading into winter like the northern hemisphere is currently. A person suffering from SAD would experience common major depressive disorder (MDD) symptoms such as depressed mood, weight gain (appetite increase and a specific craving for carbohydrates are common in winter months), excessive sleep or drowsiness, a loss of interest in things previously enjoyed. The person may experience hopelessness and even suicidality in fall and winter months, as opposed to the rest of the year.
In order for someone to be diagnosed with SAD, they would have to experience:
- at least two years of symptoms that become worse during a specific time of the year.
- the seasonal depressive episodes must significantly outweigh the nonseasonal episodes.
It’s important to note that whatever form of depression you may be currently experiencing, working with a licensed practitioner or your local support network is always advised to ensure you are given the support you need.
What can you do to support your body through seasonal depression?
While I would always recommend, first and foremost, you connect with an experienced professional to come up with a therapeutic plan to support you, there are some simple things you can do to take care of yourself through bouts of seasonal depression. These include:
- Eating healthy, nourishing foods where you can (try these freezer-friendly meals when you have the energy).
- Try to move your body in some way; that might be a walk around the block, or it could even be yoga in bed.
- Try to meditate. Yoga nidra is a great style of meditation that can help to soothe your body and support it into deep, restful, restorative sleep.
- Consider light therapy. When you can’t enjoy the light of outdoors, bring it to you. Research has shown this is an effective first-line treatment for SAD.
- Practice aromatherapy. Even on those days that you need to spend in bed, diffusing some uplifting oils throughout the house can help to increase happiness and raise energy levels.
- Avoid things that don’t make you feel good. Alcohol and drugs are two big ones; often people find momentary relief in these stimulants, but they ultimately are depressants for the body.
There’s no one or easy way out of seasonal depression, but finding the approaches that work for you will make the cooler months a little kinder.
Do you struggle with seasonal depression? Always reach out if you need some help; we are here to support you.