By Nichole A. Cavallaro
Well here we are! 2020 and another January in CNY and everywhere else! And what wintery season would be complete without lake effect snow, frigid temps and a touch of seasonal depression? I’ve written about this before and, naturally, it bears repeating when the seasons change. And we tend to change with them! Although I would like to focus on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Depression is something that hits us in waves and on many different levels. For this month, let’s focus on ways we can treat depression affected by the season. If you know my style of writing, you know I love lists. Below, I am going to rank recommendations based on my personal experience with them and what I’ve experienced with my patients’ preferences.
- Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You should always be open to another set of eyes on you. You can certainly consider your needs, however, if depressive symptoms start to get in the way of everyday functioning, it’s best to just get a gauge on where you’re at.
- Increase Vitamin D. I consume Vitamin D drops in my water each day, usually in the morning. I prefer liquid to a pill, so it’s easy.
- Consider light therapy. There are these interesting devices called light therapy boxes which give off light that replicates Mr. Golden Sun. It can help with seasonal affective disorder and depression, and the light is brighter than regular bulbs. It’s also provided in different wavelengths. I actually have one in our living room, but it’s a bulb in one of our lamps! If you can’t foresee yourself purchasing a light therapy box, a light therapy bulb is an excellent alternative. The way a light box works is you’d have to sit in front of it for about 30 minutes. Perhaps, it can sit on your desk or a kitchen counter, where ever you are working or comfortable. It stimulates your body’s circadian rhythms (that daylight savings time derailed) and suppresses your natural release of melatonin.
- Stick to a schedule. We are creatures of habit and routine and we don’t really appreciate the routine of our daily lives until we lose them. Routines provide structure. They are the bones of our day. The simplest schedule to try and stick to is your morning and nighttime routine. Sleep is one of the basic needs for survival so make the effort to care for yourself and start with a bedtime hour. For mornings, (I know, they can stink) be mindful of an appropriate hour for waking.
- Dawn Simulator. If you really want to be a warrior on your seasonal depression, or to stop hitting snooze seven times in the winter, consider a dawn simulator. You can find them on Amazon.com (you can find anything on Amazon!). It helps just like a light therapy box. It provides assistance in naturally waking you up with sounds and light levels based on the settings it has.
- Keep a journal OR use the notes section in your phone. I mean, you’re on your phone anyways most of the time, you may as well try this! I am constantly recommending to patients that jotting down your thoughts and any symptoms as they happen is so helpful. Some like it, some do not prefer it. It can only help you and, most importantly, it helps track any symptoms you may be having. Also, the next time you have a wellness appointment, you have a record from which to pull from. Look at you, the expert historian!
- Okay, I was not one for this back in my “what’s that gonna do for me” days. However, I have two diffusers in my home for three important reasons: my daughter’s asthma, keeping the air moist and breathable, and for a good mood. So yes, lavender is often on replay, and eucalyptus and grapefruit tend to join the natural party. I just decided to try it and that’s all you have to do is try.
- No, don’t move to an island (although…) but move your body! I am not suggesting you join a boot camp, a gym, a class that doesn’t offer hours conducive to your lifestyle. I am suggesting a quick walk at lunch, early in the morning if you wish, an evening stroll (that cold weather will definitely motivate your speed) or sure, join that gym or class. I have to admit: I disliked exercise so much and then one cold day in February (because I was bored) I just did the elliptical for five minutes. Then that turned to buying some weights from Target ($15). Then that turned into an exercise ball. Then the Vitamin D drops made their way into my water bottle… do you see where I am going with this? Your body craves movement, you just have to wake it up at your pace. I am not an athlete or marathon runner — I do me at my speed. In fact, I am missing my workout by writing this, but it’s worth it.
- Be proactive. Do you like to plan and do things with people? I know a lot of people like that. I am not a huge event planner, but I am thankful for those who can carry that torch. Start booking lunch dates or mall trips or simple things into your calendars where time allows. Do not let depression bully you into a onesie, sleeping on the couch all day and letting life pass you by. You matter more than that and you can treat yourself better.
Nichole is a mental health provider and writes about mental health and wellness issues on her blog, found at mentalhealthwellnesstherapy.com and self-mom.com.