With the recent time change, many clients of mine have reported feeling sluggish, drained and unmotivated to engage in daily activities. These concerns point to symptoms of depression or possibly Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
WebMD identifies SAD as a type of depression affecting a person during the same season each year. Experts speculate those who suffer from SAD this time of year struggle with adjusting to the lack of sunlight. Each day feels as if it draws to a close much quicker than expected, leading some to sleep earlier for longer periods of time. In addition, social withdraw and increased appetite add to the list of red flags. If any of these warning signs sound relatable, read ahead for recommended tips to combat seasonal depression.
Catch Some Rays
The most common advice in regards to SAD involves sunlight. Since the suggested cause of seasonal depression is due to a lack of sunlight, the obvious resolution would be to receive more light. But how can this happen when the light diminishes around 4:30 p.m.? Wake up earlier. Studies reveal recipients rising before the sun work with less distractions, feel more prepared for the day and set the tone for a pleasant, productive afternoon. Click here to read more about the benefits of waking up early or this link concerning how to do so.
If waking up earlier is out of the question, increase your Vitamin D intake. Most nutritionists support deriving Vitamin D from foods rather than supplements, but vitamins are better than nothing.
Keep It Moving
When I complained last year of stagnant and restless sentiments, a former roommate reminded me “A body in motion stays in motion”. This has remained my mantra ever since. Let’s take exercise for example. Developing motivation seems difficult initially with a body at rest, but after days of making a conscious effort to work out, to show up and be seen, these goals become easier to reach with time. Depression has been known to derail lives and take over as a snowball effect: You let yourself slip and suddenly you’re in a hole that’s nearly impossible to climb out of. Don’t allow yourself to fall in this trap before speaking up to friends and family, explaining what’s really going on.
So how exactly do you keep it moving? For starters, identify what needs to be completed on a day to day basis. In Social Work, we rate clients depending on their abilities to complete ADLs (activities of daily living). Seasonal depression often influences the desire to complete must-dos, such as taking a shower, washing laundry and finishing light housework. So begin with what needs to be done and go from there.
By contrary, I allow for “one week of moping”. When the time change takes place, I enjoy the coziness of the weather, the dark clouds rolling in and the sense of relief that comes with the season slowing down. By the second week, the depression sinks in. Feel what you feel, catch up on extra Zzz’s, then begin the following week with a list of activities you look forward to completing.
A recent article explains the art of procrastination in depth. But did you know procrastination can unintentionally become a form of self-perpetuating abuse? Guilt ties into procrastination, leading those without motivation to feel bad about themselves. We can repel unproductive habits by accomplishing the goals we set to achieve. Making a to-do list the night before each day veers us in the right direction, but jotting a “to done list” before bed reinforces the desire to tackle informal assignments.
Ultimately, refusing to procrastinate relates to staying in motion. Make sure to observe and reward your accomplishments frequently as a reminder to keep it moving. Depression delves into the deep depths of despair while those willing to take control of their lives tend to be more productive and successful. Counter the lack of energy with a burst of motivation! No need to wait till tomorrow, take this very present moment and make it your own.
Provoke Neurochemical Responses
One of my favorite happiness articles spells out ways to draw on chemical responses. Psychology Today never fails to deliver insightful advice. Loretta Graziano Breuning, author of Meeting Your Happy Chemicals, calls on four chemicals, articulating how to take advantage of them.
1 Dopamine: This chemical relates to the reward center of the brain, where you receive pleasure. Dopamine drives individuals as the motivator chemical, very important for concluding assignments. Hence, Breuing suggests creating a new goal that you can take measurable steps towards everyday, such as vowing to keep a plant alive with daily watering, holding yourself accountable to finishing a book, or journaling in the attempt to break a habit. By exceeding goals, you’re tapping into dopamine, coping with SAD more effectively.
2 Serotonin: Call on confidence to induce your need for serotonin. Power poses increase confidence as serotonin floods your system, while mantras emphasize scrutinizing your internal dialogue. One close friend recommended Mantra M&Ms as a source for building confidence. Meditate on one M&M at a time, coining each as an aid to your health. Red M&M’s may be used to bring about courage, while yellow M&Ms remain reserved for clarity or blue M&Ms for strengthening your intuitive nature. Whatever the case, work to increase confidence to disintegrate depression.
3 Oxytocin: Build on trust. Breuing elaborates on how a lack of trust can lead to a lack of oxytocin, which is needed to feel safe and secure. Life requires that we challenge ourselves by opening up to others through vulnerability, so strengthening ties with friends and close relatives during a bout of seasonal depression helps alleviate symptoms.
4 Endorphin: Unbeknownst to many, endorphins released during a “runner high” is actually attributed to the euphoria that masks pain. No, I’m not suggesting injury as the secret path to happiness, but rather, laughing (genuine laughter) which helps alleviate depression. If you don’t feel motivated to exercise, stretching proves beneficial instead. Furthermore, savoring dark chocolate and spicy foods satisfies the pallet and makes you feel good at the same time.
Embrace the Holidays
Ever heard the saying, “Whatever you resist persists?” You can’t avoid the weather, so give in to the holidays. Find new meaning and beauty in the upcoming dreary months. Can you think of something to look forward to with winter’s grim, frozen appearance looming ahead? Decorating for Thanksgiving and Christmas could be a goal to accomplish, challenging your confidence in your ability to complete the task, which you could ask others to help with, strengthening bonds and trust and before you know it, you wind up residing in a shinny environment, touted with colorful twinkling lights, drenched in holiday cheer. Now doesn’t that sound like fun? It’s hard to be depressed when you’re surrounded by beauty and decor that appeals to multiple senses, such as visual appeal and candles for fragrance.
Any other suggestions to combat seasonal depression are welcomed! My wish for you is that you find peace and solitude in the seasons that we cannot change.