Winter depression: how to deal with the cold days
Winter depression can be related to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression as the seasons change, most commonly beginning in the late fall or early winter.
Are you the type of person who feels blue when it's rainy or who starts counting the days till summer just after it ended?
For many people, the lack of sun and the fewer opportunities to do outdoor activities can end up in depression.
Winter depression symptoms
It's normal to experience some kind of nostalgia for the summer. Some studies found seasonal variations in mood with depressive symptoms usually peaking in winter. These results seemed more prevalent in higher northern latitudes, although the prevalence varied across ethnic groups.
SAD has also been identified in children and adolescents. Seasonal exacerbations and remissions are not limited to mood disorders, it has also been found in bulimia nervosa, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric illnesses. *
Symptoms can vary for each individual and include social withdrawal, oversleeping, low energy, trouble sleeping (insomnia), poor appetite, agitation, anxiety, and increased irritability.
Winter depression: things to do to improve your mood
As usual, there's no secret formula to overcome the symptoms of winter depression because it is, in fact, something you should work on with a therapist.
However, I want to give you some advice when it comes to trying to feel better:
Accept it´s OK to not be OK
We push so hard to be in a good mood that it goes against us making it more difficult to deal with our emotions
Try to be present in your days, both good and bad
Practice gratitude even if it's a cloudy day. You have the chance to experience new situations and benefit from them
Make a list of things you're grateful for
Your family, having a job, enjoying the company of your pet, the food you like, etc. Be thankful for the simple act of breathing
Let your loved ones know how you feel
It's always important to ask for the support of your family, friends, and/or partner and let them know why sometimes you´re not in the best mood
Meditate and take time to reflect
Find a space for yourself to reflect on what's going on with you; your strengths, the things you want to improve on, and most importantly, take time to calm the mind
Write down short-medium-term goals or activities you enjoy. Keep the paper
There's no space for avoidance, but you can always plan your next summer and make long-term plans. Plan things that make you feel excited
Don't forget that nothing lasts forever
Whether we like it or not, like the seasons of weather, there are also personal seasons in life: Periods of sadness, heartbreak, loneliness, madness… Allow yourself to experience those feelings keeping in mind that everything is temporary
Winter depression and couples
These changes can of course be extremely stressful for the person experiencing them, but it's also hard for their partner.
When someone is struggling with SAD, there’s a good chance they'll bail on social plans. If your significant other displays any of these behaviours, be empathic. At the same time, look for other sources of support for yourself if your partner cannot give you enough during this period of time.
Agreeing that you need to slow down and make space for "couples self-care" helps rediscover the mutual appreciation and connection that’s been affected by the winter depression.
Seek professional help. Contact me anytime that you feel like you need couple's therapy!
*A. Magnusson. An overview of epidemiological studies on Seasonal Affective Disorder