By: Nanette Kerwick, LMSW, CEAP, CAADC EAC Clinical Specialist – The “winter blues” is a phrase sometimes used as a replacement term for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression. We all hibernate (to a degree) in the winter, and this year, we have been in hibernation mode since last spring. It also looks like there may be little, to no break, until this spring – at the earliest. So how do we cope? Experts tell us to take Seasonal Affective Disorder seriously and not just brush off as the “winter blues”, trying to tough it out on our own. We can take steps to keep our mood and motivation steady throughout the year.
In most cases, seasonal depression appears in late fall and goes away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Symptoms may start out mild and continue to get worse.
Those symptoms include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interests in enjoyable activities
- Problems sleeping
- Appetite or weight changes
- Feeling sluggish or restless
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
For those who have lost a job or are struggling with the isolation of the pandemic, their symptoms may get worse. Or they may experience it for the first time. Extra added stress can wear down the immune system and cause depressive symptoms for anyone – regardless of age or situation.
Most therapists and doctors recommend getting treatment sooner rather than later. Here are some things you can do if you feel like the “winter blues” are setting in:
- Talk to your family about how you are feeling.
- Make an appointment with your Primary Care Physician for a checkup.
- Start a mild exercise plan. Cardio exercise will increase the mood elevating hormones and help improve your immune system and boost your mood.
- Make a plan to do a socially distanced activity (like walking) or call or video chat with a friend or loved one to stay connected.
- Check out depression and/or anxiety workbooks. They can provide a wealth of information on how to manage your mood. The workbooks are available at your local library or you can purchase them online. Some that I recommend are: The 10-Step Depression Relief Workbook: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Approach and The Anxiety, Worry & Depression Workbook: 65 Exercises, Worksheets & Tips to Improve Mood and Feel Better
In addition, your Employee Assistance Program can help. The counseling is confidential, easy to access and no cost to you. Contact EAC at 1-800-227-0905 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on this and other topics. We are here to help!