Saturday, November 5, 2011

Conquering Seasonal Depression

Conquering Seasonal Depression

The seasons are changing. We can all feel the warmth and light of the summer months giving way to a bite in the air, later sunrises and earlier sunsets. As our minds and bodies adjust to the darker, colder days, many of us fall into a bit of a winter “funk.” We might feel some pervasive sadness and anxiety. Many of us gain some weight, and our sleep cycles may even be affected.

Of course, as we are all trying to keep our spirits up during the dwindling daylight hours, we are also beginning to deal with the stress of the holidays. Christmas shopping, planning for Thanksgiving, and even decorating our houses for the holidays can add to our stress levels significantly.

These all describe what is now known as seasonal depression. While most of us only experience mild symptoms, there is a whole range of severity that we can experience. For most of us, though, managing seasonal depression can be as simple as making some lifestyle changes:

1. Get outside! As the days get shorter, many of us spend entire days never seeing the sun. Try to spend a few minutes outside each day. The sunlight can help to lift your mood.

2. Watch what you eat. Most of us begin craving carbohydrates and fatty foods as the winter months set in. Try making vegetable-heavy soups and stews instead of fatty meat-based meals.

3. Get moving! Even getting 15 minutes of exercise a day can help to raise your heart rate and will give you more energy throughout the day. Try to get some exercise during the daytime – especially first thing in the morning.

4. Spend time with your family and friends. Being with people you care about and who care about you can really help to lift your spirits. Try going for a walk with a friend, or gather your family to cook a healthy meal.

5. Take care of yourself! The season for this seasonal depression overlaps with cold and flu season. Try to avoid getting sick by washing hands frequently and eating lots of Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits. Also make sure that you get plenty of rest when you need it, and take some time for yourself to decompress when you begin feeling overly tired or stressed.

Seasonal depression can usually be treated with a general orientation toward wellness. Occasionally, however, professional help can really help you to get through the winter months. Talk therapy or antidepressants could be helpful. If you are experiencing persistent feelings of depression that do not get better with lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor.

Emotional health is one part of the Model for Healthy living: Faith life, medical health, work, movement, emotional health, movement and nutrition. On the journey toward wellness, we work to balance each of these areas.

For more information about the Model for Healthy Living, visit

Dr. Ron McDonald, Church Health Center Pastoral Counselor

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