Five Ways to Cope With The Winter Blues

By Hannah Tishman, LMSW

Winter can be a difficult time for New Yorkers. The sun sets early, depleting healthy levels of Vitamin D, and frequently brings in rain, snow, or a windy chill for a several month-long period. Individuals may refer to changes in their mood or an onset of depression known as “The Winter Blues.” Seasonal Depression, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, affects 4-6 percent of people annually.

It is typical for a high percentage of 20 to 30 somethings to experience an onset of seasonal depression during the winter, and is even more common in women. You may find yourself experiencing changes in mood, an increase in anxiety, lethargy, overeating, oversleeping, difficulty socializing, irritability, and other symptoms that impact your daily functioning.

Not to panic. The word seasonal can be a relief for some as it means it is temporary. Here are five things you can do this winter to cope with seasonal depression:

1. Invest in Light Therapy.
Phototherapy mimics sunshine and has been shown to suppress the brain’s secretion of melatonin, which may contribute to a decrease in lethargy and a more stabilized mood. Starting light therapy as a preventive method in the early fall can be beneficial, but it is not too late to start now! Here is a link to an affordable light box: Verilux Light Box

2. Exercise Regularly.
Moving your body at least three times a week for 20-30 minutes at a time is an excellent way to improve mood and release endorphins, which triggers a positive feeling in the mind and body. Switch up your exercise routine by including yoga, cardio, and weightlifting. Find what works best for you.

3. Speak With a Professional.
Reaching out for help can be a relief in itself. Work with your mental health provider to figure out how to best manage your symptoms this winter season.

4. Meditate.
Download and use mindfulness applications on your mobile device, such as Calm, Head Space, or Insight Timer, to improve symptoms of depression. Starting and ending your day with a 5-10 minute meditation can truly make a difference.

5. Develop Sleep Hygiene
Getting into bed at a consistent time each night and having an overall healthy sleep hygiene can set you up for success the following day and expose you to light at consistent times. Reminder to use the bed for sleep and intimacy only! Laying in bed for too long may exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Sources:
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad
https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0301/p1531.html

Hannah Tishman is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy LCSW. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

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