Seasonal Depression: a Crash Course

Five‌ ‌Things‌ ‌to‌ ‌Incorporate‌ ‌Into‌ ‌Your‌ ‌Life‌ ‌to‌ ‌Help‌ ‌Combat‌ ‌the‌ ‌Feelings‌ ‌of‌ ‌ Seasonal‌ ‌Depression‌

Maggie Phelps, Writer

The air is getting crisp and your cheeks begin to turn red.  Snow begins to fall and the holiday traditions begin.  Winter is beginning and for some, this comes as a wonderful sign as they delight in the joy of the season.  However, for many of us, the seasonal depression starts to settle in and feelings of sadness overtake us and we have to learn how to combat this.  If you feel like this describes you, do not fret for you are not alone.  Welcome to “Seasonal Depression: a Crash Course.”

Seasonal depression can relate to a change in mood due to the change in season.  “Your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody,” the Mayo Clinic explains. 

Some very common symptoms are an obvious change in your mood, a lack of energy through the day, a hard time focusing, and having a hard time falling asleep.  You might find yourself having these symptoms, especially when it gets close to winter break and the time of isolation sets in. 

Even amongst the most introverted peers, not being able to surround yourself with your community of friends can cause some feelings of seasonal depression.  I’m here to validate that emotion.  You are not alone in that struggle.

The laughs, the smiles, the warmth of our friends brighten up even the darkest of our days.  They feed energy into us and comfort us when we need it.  It’s hard to go several weeks without the same amount of exposure to our friends. 

So how do we combat this feeling? How can we be there for ourselves when our sense of community is lost? 

Here are some of my favorite ways to bring up my joy when I might be feeling low this time of year. 

1. Making the most of my alone time.  

Throughout the course of the pandemic, I have grown to know how personal my alone time is and how I can make the most of it. We hear the term “romanticize your life” all the time, and the winter season is the prime time to apply it.  Look at life like it’s the most beautiful in the world, and in some aspects, it is.  Find joy in the smallest tasks: making your favorite meal, the first sip of coffee in the morning, how amazing your favorite song sounds, and how every day is a brand new start. 

2. Journal, journal, journal! 

Thoughts and feelings are so often bottled up and neglected until life hits the fans and everything comes out at once.  This holiday season it’s time to stop that toxic spiral and begin to express our thoughts.  Vulnerability is a very beautiful thing, but it can also be equally as scary.  Sharing that level of intimacy with another person, to share your emotions free of judgement, can often be a daunting task.  Something just as beneficial but not as worrisome is sharing your emotions just to yourself through a journal.  Journaling doesn’t have to be as juvenile as keeping a diary was in elementary school.  Emptying out your thoughts into a journal so that they are no longer taking up headspace can be extremely beneficial.  Once the words are on a page, the emotions suddenly don’t feel as heavy.  And the best part about it…the emotions don’t have to make sense to anyone else but you 🙂

3. Light a candle and read a book, watch your favorite show, or indulge in a great movie. 

During winter break, it’s very easy to feel isolated.  I know first hand how much of a toll that can take on someone.  When you’re feeling distant from your friends and your peers during this break, cling to a fictional character.  Finding an escape place that you can get lost in will help you feel a sense of connection and comfort, even if you’re missing that in person contact.  Make your area a relaxing environment and get lost in another world. 

4. Practice Gratitude.  

During this time of year when the sadness begins to creep in, it’s so easy to focus on the negatives and we so often lose sight of the positives.  Part of my journal practice is to document a few things I’m grateful for.  This helps to refocus my mind on everything that I have to be appreciative of even amongst my melancholy.  Take account of everything that you have to be proud of.  Getting up out of bed and eating breakfast is a huge accomplishment; be proud of yourself. 

5. Ground yourself.

Life feels like it’s moving really fast, and if you’re going through seasonal depression then maybe it feels like you can’t catch up with life, like it’s slipping through your fingers.  Take a few moments a day to do something grounding, connect with nature.  Taking a walk to get fresh air and centering yourself can bring so much peace. 

These pieces of advice certainly aren’t the be-all and end-all solutions.  They are simply guidance points to hopefully help you navigate the effects of season depression better.  Your feelings this time of year are completely validated and it’s okay to feel a little lost.  You’ll get through this. Every day you have yourself to be proud of.  

Feel free to reach out to the Youth Services Center this time of year for any judge- free help or guidance you need.