There are two things about seasonal depression which is important for all sufferers to be reminded of. 1.) It will pass. 2.) It happens to the best of us. The first is to say that even though you may be neck deep in the gunk of what seems like a never ending black well, you really will come out the other side of it. The second is that you are not alone, or weaker, or less than anyone else by feeling this way. Depression, in particular seasonal depression (or seasonal affective disorder, SAD), can affect any type of person at any point in life, and is not dependant on age, shape, gender, profession, or intelligence.
The Symptoms of SAD
Mayo Clinic describes the symptoms as such:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping (either not enough or too much)
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. In most cases, SAD symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
The symptoms of SAD are exactly the same as any other type of depression, and should not be brushed off or left to fester. It’s entirely normal and part of being a human being to feel down sometimes, everybody goes through rough patches and periods of low self esteem. However, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms for prolonged periods of time, particularly if you’re having thoughts of self harm or suicide, this is something that should be addressed as a priority with your doctor.
The cause of SAD
Experts are not entirely certain as to why some people suffer with SAD whilst others don’t. The theory is that seasonal changes can disrupt the circadian rhythm (the 24-hour clock that regulates how we function during sleep and waking hours). When this is disrupted, it can cause an imbalance in how energised or drowsy we feel. In addition, hormones which regulate sleep, mood, and feelings of well being such as serotonin and melatonin are become similarly disrupted.
Whatever may be causing your depression this winter, we want to share these 7 holistic self-care steps on recognising and managing your low days:
1. Don’t kick yourself when you’re down.
Be kind to yourself. You may not realise that you can be your own worse enemy. Be mindful of your thoughts and don’t let yourself believe you are not capable or worthy.
2. You are beautiful, and amazing.
When somebody gives you a compliment, believe them. They believe it and so should you.
3. Make the effort to be social when you’ve been staying isolated.
Spending time alone is healthy and can help you to recharge, but neglecting relationships for too long will only make you feel more disconnected and feed the negative cycle. Try to balance your family and social life with time for yourself. Alternating weekends is one way to allocate social/alone time.
4. Take your exercise outside.
Walking, jogging, cycling or rollerblading are all great methods of getting your daily exercise. When we literally set off and start moving forwards, one foot in front of the other, it gets our thought patterns moving forwards as well. Exercise is not just about staying physically fit and healthy, but keeping your mind clear and increasing motivation levels. Particularly in the times we feel out of wits or sluggish, exercise is often the best remedy. Physical activity works to release pent up negative energy and stimulates the production and absorption of feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters.
5. Drink tea
Have as many cups of tea as it takes. You can take this in a literal sense, or in a metaphorical one. We all know tea can make any situation better, but it’s a symbol of the simple comforts in life. Whether it’s night after night of curling up on the couch watching your favourite series, or ordering takeout because you’re too tired to cook, or just going straight to bed whilst everyone else goes out to the pub. Don’t feel guilty about it. Have your cup of tea or three, and relax, it’ll all work out in the end. Remember that it’s okay to take care of you when you’re feeling fragile.
6. Moderate alcohol intake
When we’re going through emotional turmoil, it’s tempting to turn to alcohol. A beer or a couple of glasses of wine in the evenings is not a problem, and can help us destress. The issue begins if you’re finding yourself using it as a coping mechanism rather than a treat had in moderation. When we use alcohol or drugs as a crutch, it actually emphasises our problems and masks or distorts true feelings, instead of allowing us to deal with them.
6. Don’t hold back the tears
When we finally get so fed up or overwhelmed with emotion that tears begin to form, don’t hold them back. Psychiatrists encourage their patients to cry, as tears are the body’s natural release valve for stress, sadness, grief, anxiety, and frustration. Emotional tears have special health benefits, ejecting stress hormones from the body and encouraging the production of feel-good transmitters in the brain. Holding back on a good cry session can cause depression, anger and anxiety to become more potent. Allow your body to deal with difficult mental states by utilising the mechanism that has worked for it since birth.
Extend your knowledge on the workings of the mind and get qualified in the process!
Dig a little deeper with our philosophical courses
Why not brighten your future with one of our accredited online holistic health courses? We offer internationally recognised qualifications in Psychotherapy and Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness and Neuro Linguistics Programming. We have over 60 different holistic therapy courses to choose from, and we’re happy to help you every step of the way. Here at The School of Natural Health Sciences, you can be sure that your CV, spectrum of knowledge, and outlook on life will be forever enriched.