I’ve noticed that when I don’t make a constant effort to keep my mind busy, it goes down a rabbit-hole of making my depression and worrying from anxiety worse. It’s hard to pick yourself up when you’re feeling at your lowest. Thankfully, I usually recognize when my symptoms get worse and I can usually stop myself from going too low by finding things to occupy my time and mind. Depression isn’t just feelings of sadness; it’s a serious mental-health issue with a multitude of other symptoms that most people don’t understand unless they have it. Even loved-ones might not understand why the person they care about is “moody” all the time.
With Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, depression symptoms get worse over the winter months if you live in a cold area. It’s not surprising, given that there is less sunshine, it’s freezing, there are less things to do outdoors, and with darkness arriving before 5pm. Being cold, lonely, and stuck inside in a dark house trying to stay warm is enough to drain anyone’s mood, but it’s even tougher for depression-sufferers to ‘snap out’ of their mood. SAD is sometimes manageable on your own, but it’s always good to get your doctor’s opinions and advice for all your mental health needs. Some people find that occupying their minds helps their depression symptoms. Symptoms don’t go away entirely, but they aren’t as bad as they could be if you did nothing at all to look after yourself. I sincerely hope some of these ideas help make these cold months a little more tolerable for you.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and my opinions are not meant to take the place of the opinions and advice from qualified medical professionals. Always consult your doctor for all your mental health and physical health issues. If they can’t help, they can refer you to someone who can.
- Hobbies. I can’t stress this enough, finding things to do that you enjoy are huge mood-boosters. If you’re sitting around and are bored, your mind will find things to worry about and you’ll start to feel sorry for yourself and go down that rabbit-hole I mentioned earlier. Keeping your mind busy may help. Hobbies can be free and done indoors alone or involve vacationing to the next state over with friends to get out of the house. There are so many ideas that it’s impossible to list them all but a quick internet search or expanding on things you already like to do is a great start.
- Talk to your doctor about natural supplements that can help boost your mood. Some supplements can interact with medications you’re taking, so it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor for advice.
- Spoil yourself. If you have the money to get your nails and hair done, go to the movies with friends or do anything else outside of the house, do it. Do anything that makes you feel happy. If you don’t have money, you can still feel spoiled by doing the same things indoors. Give yourself a manicure and pedicure. Try new hairstyles or colors. Get Redbox movies or watch Netflix at home with friends. Soak in the tub or read a book. The list is endless, and spoiling yourself doesn’t mean you have to go broke; it just means taking care of yourself and doing things that make you feel good.
- Try yoga or meditation to relax your mind. Even if you aren’t into it, your brain will appreciate you trying to give it a few minutes of peace and breathing instead of worrying.
- Exercise might seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling down, but studies show it releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) and can help depression symptoms! Read more here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495
- Enjoy the sunshine when it’s out. Whether it’s warm or not, if the sun is shining, try to get out and enjoy it. You can also look into light-therapy to bring the sunshine indoors. I’m not familiar with the effectiveness since I haven’t tried light-therapy, but some sufferers (and doctors) swear by them, so do a little research and see if it’s something you’d like to try.
- Learn to cook. If you’re used to getting take-out and eating junk because you’re not in the mood to cook when you’re miserable, try to cook anyway. If you’re eating better foods it can elevate your mood, whereas junk food leads to cravings, crashes, and weight-gain if you don’t control your intake. Being stuck inside over winter will typically cause people to eat for comfort, but that can also bring down your mood which will make you not want to do the things that you should be doing for your overall wellness and health (mental and physical).
- Exercise your brain. You can take free college courses on coursera.org and edx.org. If you want a certificate to further your education, there is a small fee for that, but you can take tons of courses absolutely free on just about any topic you can think of! Khan Academy is another place you can take free classes to give your mind something to focus on when you’re trapped indoors because of the weather.
Can you think of other ways to help depression symptoms over the winter months?