It’s during this time of year that many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, including those who already have depression. As someone who experiences seasonal depression on top of depression diagnosis, I feel it’s important to discuss the ways that many people, including myself, stay afloat during these winter blues. Everything discussed here can also apply to clinical depression.
That being said, I believe a trigger warning is necessary as there will be mentions of medication, impulses, and psychiatry. It’s also important to remember that I’m not a psychiatrist or therapist and that these are methods from personal experience and that of others.
Take Your Medicine
If you take medicine and you know that it helps you, it’s imperative that you take it every day as instructed. Yes, there are lots of people who get prescribed the wrong medication or whose medicine doesn’t help or causes side effects. If so, consult your psychiatrist ASAP. However, if you know that your medicine benefits you, it’s important to take it as it does affect your brain chemistry. I know that when I’m inconsistent with my medication, my mood is highly affected.
Be Consistent With Therapy
Similar to medication consistency, remaining consistent with therapy is extremely important! If you attend talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, etc. make sure you attend your appointments and are present during them. It’s super helpful to vent without fear of being judged and to learn to regulate your emotions effectively. Of course if you feel uncomfortable with your therapist by any means, it’s best to seek out a new one.
Get Proper Sleep
Although it can be extremely difficult, especially as a college student, getting a good amount of sleep every night is crucial for good mental health. Sleep is when the body and mind rejuvenates and restores, and the proper amount is known to help with anxiety and depression. It took me a long time to do this, however, I realized that getting the right amount of sleep helped a lot with depression and anxiety, so now I always try to get at least 8 hours of sleep.
Avoid Too Much Isolation
When seasonal depression hits, it’s normal to feel unmotivated and want nothing more than to lay in bed. But, what you really want to do is to surround yourself with people that will bring you up! Having alone time is perfectly fine and encouraged, but too much is never a good thing. You may end up feeling worse if you’re alone with your thoughts. You want to get outside of your head. Sometimes I find that pushing myself to spend time with those who are important to me is exactly what I need even when it doesn’t seem like it.
Wake Up Earlier
Waking up earlier than you normally would will give you a couple of extra hours of daylight. With the sun setting earlier and earlier, this may be of great help. The day won’t seem to slip away as quickly and you’ll spend less time in the darkness. You may even feel more productive with the extra hours available in your day. If you think this could help brighten your mood, definitely try it out! Light therapy can also be helpful as it mimics natural sunlight.
Practice Your Coping Skills/Emotional Regulation
When experiencing seasonal depression, and of course regular depression, it’s critical that you keep practicing your coping skills and emotional regulation. I’m not going to sit here and claim that meditation and yoga are a cure-all, but if that’s what helps you then own it because they are definitely beneficial! If you find journaling helpful, do it faithfully. Keep a gratitude list. Make a pros/cons list when making decisions that you’re unsure of. Practice breathing exercises. Read your favorite book. Help those in need. Spend time with loved ones. Exercise. Recognize your impulses and try to connect with your rational mind to keep yourself from acting on them. Do anything (that’s healthy) that you know makes you feel better and helps you feel balanced, even if you have to force yourself sometimes. Practice any exercises your therapist recommends to you. I know it’s cliche, but do what you know makes you feel fulfilled. It’s essential.
Lastly, it’s important to be honest. Be honest with yourself and with those who love you. Don’t bury your feelings as they will surface eventually and only make things worse. If you can’t rely on others to help you, or if you feel others will judge you, get help for yourself. Be there for yourself and know there will always be people willing to help you with whatever you’re going through.