Seasonal Depression: More Than Just the Winter Blues

Cool weather brings all the most exciting things about the fall and winter season. That first crisp morning that marks the end of summer is one of my favorite things in the world. It means hot coffee, soups and fall flavors. It means scarves and blankets and sweaters. It means crunchy leaves, first snows and holidays. There is no better time to curl up with a good book or some Netflix and hot cocoa than with the start of fall and winter.

However, once the initial excitement of the changing seasons wears off, and it does not take long, it is just downright cold. With that comes less sun, less exercising and less socializing. While fall can be one of the best times of the year, it can also mark the worst for anyone who feels the effects of seasonal depression.

If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling those winter blues right about now. You don’t want to go out as much, you feel upset for no reason, and you are just tired overall. Other symptoms you might experience are trouble concentrating, desire to be alone, and craving for starchy or sugary foods.

Also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), seasonal depression should not be a source of shame for anyone, as it is a completely normal reaction to the transitioning world around you. Not to mention, seasonal depression is most common among college students, especially women. It is natural for life to slow down a bit in the fall and winter, but when that slowness starts to encroach on your overall well being, it is time to take action.

I really want to make it clear that experiencing feelings of mild seasonal depression is completely normal and can totally be addressed. However, if you think you are experiencing severe symptoms of depression or depression that is not related to the changing seasons, please do not hesitate to get help.

Seasonal depression can be a downward spiral, so it’s important to take action to make yourself feel better so you can enjoy all the amazing things that fall and winter bring. It is completely okay to take a little extra “me time” right now, but it is also important that you don’t let these feelings overwhelm you. With that, here are some tips for making the best out of the changing seasons.

1. Increase your exposure to light.

You have probably heard that seasonal depression is actually a reaction to the lack of sunlight and lack of those lovely vitamin D rays. This is where light therapy comes in handy. While you can totally buy a fancy light box to help get more brightness into your winter life, most of them will cost at least $50.00. Instead, make sure that you are turning lights on as soon as you wake up in the morning, and that once you have awoken for the day, don’t stay in the dark for more than an hour. If possible, set your lamp on a timer to turn on 30 minutes before you wake up, to mimic the sun rising.

2. Don't give in to your starchy cravings.

Seasonal depression is accentuated by the desire to eat more heavy and rich foods. White pasta sounds good in the winter, tomato sauce does not count as a vegetable, and eating that ‘comfort food’ pasta for lunch will only exacerbate your symptoms. Instead, get creative with how you get your fruits and veggies in: dip carrots in guacamole, throw some berries in your morning yogurt, or just get extra spinach on your sandwich. Little changes like these can end up making a big difference in your mood.

3. Skip that afternoon nap.

One of the best ways to combat seasonal depression is to stick to a sleep schedule. It might seem nice at first, but that afternoon nap on a wintry afternoon will do more harm than good. Getting at least 7 hours a night and not napping during the day is the most influential way to improve mental health. In addition, the time you could spend napping could be a good time to spend in front of your lamp getting homework done, exposing you to light and making you less stressed.

4. Decrease your alone time.

Another thing that can be a tremendous help is to find a friend to just stay inside with you. It can be so hard to get outside and be social when its cold, but that does not mean you have to be alone! Rent an old favorite movie and pig out on hot chocolate with your bestie. Grab a friend and make an indoor winter bucket list featuring spa nights, cookie bake offs, and cuddle parties. If you have a list of things to do inside, you will have something to look forward to and not feel so hopeless.

All in all, if you are feeling the familiar tinge of seasonal depression right now, you are not alone. Fall can be fun, and you don’t want to miss out on that! Enjoy the start of this cozy season; the holidays are coming! Don't worry, summer will be here before you know it.