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Seasonal depression: You’re not alone

Seasonal depression is sometimes referred to as the winter blues or its former clinical term, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Symptoms tend to arrive and recede around the same time each year, with mood lowering as days grow darker and lifting in the spring or summer when days are longer and host more sunshine.

Seasonal depression is more than the post-holiday blues. People with this pattern of depression typically experience normal mental health the rest of the year and are only affected during the winter months. It’s not uncommon to see these symptoms start during the time change in early November. Although there is more daylight in the morning time, the sunlight during daytime is continuing to get shorter, and many people express frustration or sadness about not having any sunlight once getting home from work. Nearly all outdoor activities and hobbies come to a halt due to a lack of sunshine and plummeting temperatures.

Some commons signs of seasonal depression are sadness, loss of energy, fatigue, changes in sleeping (either oversleeping or difficulties sleeping), and changes in eating habits, such as craving carbohydrates, overeating, and weight gain. Some individuals may also experience anxiety, irritability, and feelings of hopelessness. These symptoms can make staying focused and active more difficult. Routine activities such as getting out of bed and going to work or concentrating while at work can be impacted by seasonal depression.

Depression is treatable. Many individuals who seek assistance for depression start to feel better in a matter of weeks. It’s important to speak with your doctor or another professional any time you think you are experiencing depression. Get help if you are feeling overwhelmed, your quality of work or life is impacted, you feel miserable, or you are experiencing feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness. Seasonal depression is a recognized condition that professionals can treat using either counseling or medication. Treatment can be game-changing, and sometimes lifesaving. 

In addition to counseling and medication, treatments for seasonal depression include light therapy, exercise, and increased outdoor activity. Here are some strategies to cope with seasonal depression:  

·         Brighten your day. Get an extra boost of sunshine by opening the blinds, sitting near a window, or venturing outside.  

·         Boost mood with exercise. Some people take up winter sports or exercise in a well-lit area.  

·         Spend time outdoors. While this can be tough in the winter, doing so can boost your spirits.  

·         Lighten your mood with upbeat music.  

·         Volunteer your time. The satisfaction of losing yourself in service to others can lift your mood and offers a shift in perspective.  

·         Start planning your next vacation now. Doing so boosts happiness. You may even try a mid-winter vacation in a warm, sunny location for a brief reprieve.  

If you would like to discuss treatment options for seasonal depression, the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program is here to help! Please consult the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 1-800-688-7859 for free, confidential counseling.