It’s that time again…
The days are growing cooler. The leaves are falling. The pumpkin-spice-everything is all around.
But you just feel blah.
While many of us recognize the mild form of “blues” we feel during the fall and winter seasons, some experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly called seasonal depression.
Seasonal depression goes beyond the occasional blues. And unlike the blues, it is much more common in people who live in cloudy regions or farther from the equator.
(You guessed it, Minnesotans: That means us.)
People who experience seasonal depression share many of the common signs of depression, including:
- loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
- withdrawal from social activities
- difficulty concentrating
- extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- physical sensation of heaviness in the limbs
- increased need for sleep
- weight changes
Certainly, it’s normal to experience days when you just feel “down”. But, if you notice that you’re feeling down for days at a time with no motivation to engage in activities you normally enjoy, it is a good time to seek seasonal depression support.
And even if you don’t experience seasonal depression, you most likely can still benefit from many of these strategies.
So, the next time you catch yourself daydreaming fondly of warmer times, pay attention to what you miss most about summer. The answers may hold the key to finding the right self-care strategies for you:
If you miss the sunshine…
…you’re in good company!
Decreased sunlight is one of the most common difficulties people experience as the seasons transition from summer to fall to winter.
- Spend time outside in natural light. Aim for a daily walk if you can.
- Visit a greenhouse or conservatory as the weather turns colder.
- Sit by a window to work or read.
- Consider using a light box as part of a seasonal depression treatment plan. (Be sure to consult a professional first, particularly if you have a history of mood cycling.)
If you miss the bright colors…
…it may be time to get creative and arrange your environment to fully engage the senses.
- Incorporate cheerful colors (e.g., fresh paint, wall art, throw pillows) into your home or work environment.
- Forget seasonal fashion rules! Wear colors that make you feel good.
- Light a tropical candle, diffuse essential oils, or wear fragrances that uplift you.
- Create a playlist of upbeat music that makes you feel good.
If you miss your favorite foods…
…you may be in a dietary rut. Change up your routine by stocking the kitchen with a variety of options. You’ll get more satisfaction from the foods you eat, and you’ll enjoy a much-needed boost of energy.
- Aim to eat a well-balanced variety of foods rich in color and nutrients. Check out some new cookbooks or food blogs for inspiration to get you started.
- Choose your favorite in-season fruits and veggies and keep them washed, prepared, and easily accessible for snacking.
- Splurge on whichever tropical or out-of-season produce you miss most. Or check the frozen foods section for budget-friendly options.
- Keep summer treats (e.g., ice cream, popsicles) on hand to enjoy indoors.
If you miss being active…
…it’s time to find pleasurable ways to move your body during the cold-weather months!
The key is to prioritize types of movement you enjoy, so you may need to experiment until you discover what you like best. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, three times a week.
- Meet up with a friend and walk together.
- Play! Take the family to a park or on a hike. Join a social-distanced recreation league.
- Experiment with workout videos on YouTube in the privacy of your own home.
If you miss being active outdoors (and even if you don’t)…
…try to spend some time outside every day. Even when it’s overcast, the benefits of daylight can still help.
- Bundle up and walk around your neighborhood.
- Explore festivals, markets, or other socially-distanced outdoor events in your community.
- Capitalize on the changing seasons by embracing outdoor activities like hiking and biking in the fall or skiing or snowshoeing in the winter.
If you miss having a busy social calendar…
…plan ahead and fill that schedule now.
For many of us, it’s not what we did last summer that we miss, but rather the fact we were doing anything at all!
The cold-weather hibernation struggle is real: As good as it feels to cozy up on the couch watching Netflix some nights, spending an entire season there can be a recipe for social isolation.
- Stay connected to your social circle. Text or call to check in with friends or family you haven’t seen lately.
- Don’t lapse into vague plans to get together with the people you care about; be proactive and get something on the calendar.
- Host a virtual potluck or game/movie night.
- Lend a helping hand. Seek out volunteer opportunities where you can engage with your community. Holiday coat and toy drives, homeless and animal shelters, and food pantries and kitchens all typically have greater than average need during fall and winter.
If you miss having a flexible social calendar…
…you might need less structure in your calendar, not more.
The cold-weather months bring a new influx of activities and events, and many of us find ourselves longing for the lazy days of summer.
- Perform a ruthless audit of your household’s calendar. What is essential? What can be modified?
- Opt out of anything that causes unnecessary stress or consumes unnecessary time/energy/resources.
- Rather than jamming the calendar full of scheduled “bucket list” activities, create a seasonal inspiration list and hang it near the calendar. Choose those activities that appeal to you most (e.g., visiting an apple orchard) and assign a specific day and time for them to happen. Let the other ideas go, or save them for next year.
And if you just miss feeling like you used to…
…it may be time to consult a professional for evaluation and (if appropriate) support for seasonal depression.
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Think you could be experiencing seasonal depression?