It's Cold Outside... And Notes on Seasonal Depression

It's getting cold in NYC. But the weather is also slightly confused about how it wants to feel on certain days, and honestly, I don't blame it. Cause on most days I don't know what I want to do, feel, or be either.

I recently wrote an article for my other blog, Respect Your Struggle on Seasonal Affective Disorder and how to beat the winter blues. Well, here I am with my measuring stick beating the crap out of it. Despite having these semi-warm days, I still have a hard time doing things like going to the gym, spending my weekends outside of my basement, or just having a good time out with my girlfriends.

I like being a busy-body, it's in my nature to always be out and about enjoying scenic views, being amongst nature and meeting new people as I try to befriend all of humanity. But that doesn't work too well for me during the colder months.

My routine is normally to wake up and force myself to cook a decent breakfast, hide in my office with the heat cranked up, and write for six hours, then head down into my basement for Netflix and chill. That lifestyle may be fun for some, but it's not typical for me. So let me talk to you all about seasonal depression and how to get to work on combatting it.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

It's basically a light form of depression that occurs during the winter months and goes into remission during the spring and summer months.

And why does this happen?

Science tells us that it relates to a biochemical change in the brain and this is triggered by a lack of sunlight. It has been noted that daylight savings has been linked to the onset of SAD and this may be from the fact that once daylight savings hit we now have shorter days.

Is a lack of sunlight really a big deal?

YES! First, let's talk about how a decrease in sunlight also means a decrease in vitamin D. This deficiency causes bone pain and muscle weakness, along with significant health risks such as cognitive impairments in adults, asthma in children, different forms of cancer, memory loss and more. 

Also, with less sun our body automatically goes into resting mode thanks to our internal clock. This can slow down our days, make us feel more lethargic, and shortens our activities that we love doing.

Anything else cause SAD?

This isn't scientifically proven, but more so common sense proven. When the winter comes I just want to stay in my house, well actually, my body wants to stay in the house but my mind is like what the heck? Why aren't you outside doing something fun with your life? This is a personal battle for me. The winter months drain me of my energy as well as my motivation to just get stuff done!

 What are the symptoms of SAD?

According to Mental Health America:

  • Depression: misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem, hopelessness, diminished interest in activities, despair, and apathy
  • Anxiety: tension and inability to tolerate stress
  • Moodchanges: extremes of mood and, in some, periods of mania in spring and summer
  • Sleep problems: desire to oversleep and difficulty staying awake or, sometimes, disturbed sleep and early morning waking
  • Lethargy: feeling of fatigue and inability to carry out normal routine
  • Overeating: craving for starchy and sweet foods resulting in weight gain
  • Socialproblems: irritability and desire to avoid social contact
  • Sexualproblems: loss of libido and decreased interest in physical contact

So how can I fix this problem so that it doesn't spiral into severe depression?

Glad you asked. I like to be intentional about the things that I do and how I spend my time, and I urge you to do the same by creating or journaling down your intentions for the weeks to come. You don't have to plan for the next three weeks in front of you, but at least have an idea for what you plan on doing tomorrow and the day after.

Creating intentions are easy. It's a way to map out your day and carve out the time to be focused on completing that task. So what are my intentions for this week?

  • Write down my schedule daily
  • Spend an hour painting for self-care
  • Spend two days creating content for work
  • Spend three days writing my second book
  • Visit a friend 1-2x weekly during my late afternoon hours so that i can remember that it's actually early outside despite it being dark
  • Cut off all work by 6pm
  • DO NOT work on the weekends
  • Go on a walk/go to the gym 
  • Bake something from scratch 
  • Journal every night
  • Reminding myself to be thankful
  • Meditating/Praying when I wake up
  • Walk on the boardwalk for self-care

Being intentional makes it easy to stick to routines. If you have a normal routine, perfect! If you don't, make one. Your brain needs to know what's coming next so that you don't have dead space to be easily triggered by mood swings.

This practice is also important because it aligns our attitudes, thoughts and beliefs and it helps us to be more responsible when it comes to our ACTIONS. Intentional living is a form of elevation for our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. And it helps us to sharpen our skills as to what it looks like to "show up" for ourselves and prioritize our needs and mental health. 

What else can I do? 

Creating a winter budget is another useful tool. How? because this doesn't give you room to tell your friends that you are too broke to hang out tonight. If money is an issue, create a plan to carve out some extra funds that you can use on the weekends for the activities that you enjoy doing.

Exercise. I'm sure you have heard endless amounts of reasons on why working out is important. But I just want you to move your body, literally. When I can't go to the gym I go on short walks in my neighborhood or on the boardwalk. This gives me access to movement and the sun all in one. 

Some other quick tips would be to get enough sleep, 6-8 hours, keep your friends and family included in your life as a form of support or accountability. Create a music playlist and dance the night away while also remembering to stay focused on the positive that's all around. 

How can I get through the holidays when I struggle with grief?  

Many folks have this struggle including myself. I have learned that a spirit of gratitude can take you many places. It's hard to get through this season when the ones you love are no longer present, but I encourage you to focus on the ones who's still are and create a gratitude list on the people who you care for and why. Remind yourself of why these people are impostrant to you so that when you are having low moments you can remember that you are not alone. I also encourage you to lean on others for support and accountability. Don't exclude yourself from social and family interactions. Being around others elevates our happiness and our feelings of intimacy and inclusion. You don't have to be alone. Make an intention to be sourrounded by others. 

And that's all I got for you on this post.  

So do you have any fun things that you enjoy doing in the colder seasons? Comment below an let me know.

With Love,

MB.

Minaa B.mental healthComment