Living in a region that fully experiences all four seasons has its benefits. The beauty of emerging spring, the joy of a cool pool on a hot summer day and the vibrance of a country drive on an autumn afternoon. Even winter can bring its own special spirit with the holidays and blanket of crisp white snow. But for many the long, dreary days can also evoke SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a type of depression related to changes in season. For many afflicted persons this begins in the fall and continues through the winter. Symptoms of SAD include changes in energy, appetite or sleep patterns, inability to concentrate, increased irritability, social withdrawal or a sense of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness. No doubt, the ongoing pandemic and its isolating effects have added to these symptoms.
As many as 20% of people in the US may be impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder or a less severe version of the winter blues. SAD is most common among women, those who have a history of depression and those who live farther from the equator.
A report last winter showed that Indiana ranked third in the number of Google searches made about the winter blues. Maybe that’s because Hoosiers are more in tune with their mental health and seeking help, or maybe it’s because we have compounding circumstances that make us more susceptible.
Whatever the cause, here are some things you can do to take care of yourself during the winter months. First, take care of your body. Try to stay on schedule. Eat regular balanced meals, maintain regular sleep patterns and stay active as much as possible. Studies show that those with mild depression find great benefit from regular exercise. Next, take care of your soul. Find a way to connect. Call a friend, volunteer, or join a club. It doesn’t matter how you connect; what matters is that you have genuine interactions with another person. Make time for activities you enjoy or start a new hobby. Whatever you do, be mindful and focus on that task and let go of the idea of multi-tasking. Lastly, seek help when needed. If symptoms are interfering with your ability to carry out daily activities and zapping your joy, talk to someone. That someone may be a trusted friend or it may be a medical provider or mental health professional.
The number one fact to know is that you are not alone and do not need to suffer alone. To learn more about managing depressive symptoms or how you can offer help to another person check out the resources at www.mhfirstaid.tools/diytools. Be Well Indiana (www.bewellindiana.com) also offers a great variety of resources including a helpline. To reach someone any time of the day call 211, enter your zip code then press 3 for free, confidential assistance. We are in this together and support is available.