Battling the Mid-Winter and Post-Holiday Blues
The holidays are associated with high spirits and the joy of togetherness, gathering within the warmth of family. However, it is common to feel dejected even when those around us expect us to be happy. These low spirits are often called the holiday blues, the winter blues, or seasonal depression. Thankfully, there are various ways of recognizing symptoms of this type of depression and ways to combat it.
What is Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression is a mild type of depression that occurs within particular seasons of the year. Throughout the winter, sunlight hours are shorter. This reduced amount of sunlight and vitamin D causes your serotonin levels to plummet, which can trigger depression. As dark skies become the norm, the lack of sunlight raises melatonin, which helps you sleep, but this also can cause your body to slow, leaving you feeling sluggish.
Winter weather drives many of us indoors to keep warm, but this extended isolation can cause anyone to feel lonely and unproductive. The holidays are a time of togetherness, but these times can bring memories of loved ones who are no longer with us.
All the triggers surrounding the holidays accumulate for a distressing time of year for many people. On the flip side, when the holidays have ended, people take down decorations, and loved ones return to work or school. It's a somber goodbye to the warmth that was once throughout the holiday cheer.
Seasonal Depression Symptoms
Seasonal depression has many overlapping features with major depressive disorder. Major depressive disorder is also known as clinical depression, in which a person who has it experiences negative moods and significant losses of interest that ultimately debilitate their daily functioning.
Seasonal depression, also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), differs in that it is particularly persistent or relevant during a particular season. These depression symptoms are tied directly to the shift from warmer weather into the fall and winter seasons, with their shorter daylight hours and colder temperatures.
Symptoms of seasonal depression include:
- Feelings of hopelessness or emptiness
- Lacking interest in things you enjoy
- Perpetually lethargic
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Overeating or undereating
- Drastic changes in weight
- Feeling guilty or worthless without an inciting incident
- Experiencing thoughts of not wanting to live
4 Ways to Combat Seasonal Depression
Prioritize Your Social Life
A catalyst for the winter blues is isolation. The harsh winter can be unbearable, it’s harder to visit family and friends or go to places you enjoy. Whenever opportunities arise to be amongst people or with those you care about, try to prioritize them higher to fill in the gaps within the week.
However, if the weather is a factor, you can socialize with family and friends on Zoom or Facetime video calls, or over the phone. Additionally, simple trip to the grocery store or a cafe can suffice as socializing. Being in an environment with other people can help ground and revitalize you. Moreover, socializing can help energize you and combat lethargy caused by seasonal depression.
A Balanced Diet
Diet influences our bodies in many ways behind the scenes. During the holidays especially, people are easily tempted by the many sweets that circulate in their immediate environment. Weight gain during the winter is due to the combination of increased caloric intake and lower physical activity, both help spike seasonal depression. Consuming valuable whole foods, avoiding processed foods, and taking vitamin supplements are huge steps in alleviating the most pertinent symptoms of depression.
Foods that combat seasonal depression include:
- Fatty foods: fish, olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils
- Leafy greens: kale, cabbage, spinach, romaine lettuce, and bok choy
- Whole Grains: quinoa, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, and whole wheat alternatives to cereal and bread
Vitamin D naturally decreases during the winter because of the lack of sunlight. Taking a daily supplement that contains vitamin D is imperative to combating seasonal depression.
Therapy will always be a good choice if you’re struggling to counter the impacts of depression. Some of your problems during the holidays might exist due to things you’re unaware of, such as a bad memory of Christmas. Whether you’re in tune with your issues or not, talking to a therapist can help give insight into handling the holidays and their many stressors. With the influx of reliable options for mental health needs, talking to someone can be done remotely rather than in person.
Online therapy is helpful when you’re avoiding the snow and harsh cold – instead of visiting an office, you can bundle up in your home. All you need is a device with reliable internet. Sites like BetterHelp offer a spectrum of catalogs of therapists that can serve your mental health needs—some of which specialize in seasonal depression. You can also speak to a psychiatrist who can prescribe antidepressants if they deem it necessary. With online therapy, you get the same benefits versus in person.
Physical Activity and Fresh Air
During the winter months, it's typical for decreased physical activity. Although days are more prone to be overcast and gloomy, try to go outside as much as you can. A great way to enjoy the winter weather is to enjoy new sights by taking a hike. If hiking is a bit more strenuous than you would prefer, just getting outside can bring you many of the same benefits. Whether it be taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood or sitting on the balcony with some freshly brewed coffee, fresh air goes a long way in boosting your spirits.
If it’s too cold, exercise can also be done indoors, at your local gym or in the comfort of your home. A fantastic way to exercise in your home is by purchasing a stationary bike, a treadmill, or weights. Yoga is another physical activity that can be done in most spaces.
Coming down with a case of the winter blues is common and you’re not alone. If you find yourself in the motions of seasonal depression, reach out to loved ones and schedule a visit to speak with your healthcare provider. Familiarize yourself with your triggers and analyze what your daily life looks like: you will better understand yourself and what to avoid moving forward.
By Camille Holder
Camille Holder is a creative-oriented content writer, storyteller, artist, and digital marketer. She’s a seasoned content writer for various businesses in the tech, gaming, entertainment, and health world. She finds contentment in giving her readers accurate and easy-to-read information, even if the subject is complex. Writing is one of her greatest passions aside from her other hobbies such as drawing, horse-riding, and taking care of animals.