How to Cope When Seasonal Depression Makes Your Regular Depression Worse

Places with more temperate climates have lower rates of mental health issues such as depression. Weather, though many people do not know it, is a large factor in determining one’s mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health define seasonal depression as “a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes.” It is why seasonal depression, which is a type of depression that occurs in fall and winter when the weather is gloomier than the rest of the year, is such a problem. People who experience seasonal depression find that in winter and fall they have feelings of hopelessness and lack of a desire to do things they previously enjoyed. While there are people whose only experience with depression is seasonal depression, there are others who face depression year round. Those who already have depression are also affected by the change in weather that may cause a worsening of their sadness. So what do you do when seasonal depression makes your regular depression worse?

We can not all afford to go on vacations to somewhere with beautiful weather to make ourselves feel better. The vast majority of us have to take part in self care and maintaining a good support system to deal with our depression in the winter. Cold  weather can bring a worsening of depression and requires unique ways of dealing with it.

Though winter may be cold, it is also the time for coming together. The Holiday season is one of the best times to strengthen your support system and make sure the people who care about you will be there. You will be surrounded by people you love on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and more. If you are going home to your families this is a great time to open up to them and make sure they are giving you their full support. If you don’t have the best relationship with your family, know that your friends will support you.Throw a Friendsgiving, do a Secret Santa, know that there are ways to get support from the people who love you. Even if you still find yourself alone on holidays you can look up community events such as those in your local community center, which can range from cookie decorating to movie nights. No matter how alone you feel, there will always be someone around to support you.

Though support systems are one of the most foundational aspects of living with depression, there are other winter ways to self care. Our personal favorite is food. Every holiday is filled with food, which is then followed by days of left overs. Make sure you are eating three meals a day, because right now is one of the best times to do so. And for anyone that is food insecure, the Holidays are one of the main parts of the year when people donate food. Go to a food bank, make sure you are fed. If you are a student on Cal Poly’s campus, we have resources for those who are food insecure.

Conversely, to those of you who are not food insecure - donate. Not only will you be helping people who need it, but you will be fulfilled through giving. If seasonal depression is making it hard to cope go donate food or coats or spend a day at a shelter. Even if in a moment you feel like you are useless, you can know your actions are helping so many people around you. It might not be the most exciting form of self fulfillment, but it can do so much for those around you. And when you reach out to help your community, your community will be there for you when you need it.

Seasonal depression can make life hard to cope with, especially when you may already be suffering from another form of depression. But know that you are never alone and someone will always be there to support you. So if you are feeling down at Holiday season go make some hot chocolate and cuddle up with the people you care about and make sure they know how much you need their support.

 

Here are a list of resources for anyone struggling this holiday season:

Programs for food insecurity: https://www.nutrition.gov/subject/food-assistance-programs

National Alliance of Mental Health(NAMI): 1-800-950-6264

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Trevor Project (hotline for LGBTQ+): (866) 488-7386