5 Ways to Manage Your Seasonal Depression
1. Make a Plan
If you know that your depression is likely going to be setting in soon, try to get ahead of it by being prepared with a plan to counteract the symptoms. For example, plan for a vacation during this time or calendar in self-care that you know you will need to do, but likely won’t have the energy to plan out during your down season. Think now about what sounds fun or what you enjoy doing before nothing sounds fun, and make list that you can later refer to. Give yourself some things to look forward to besides gloom!
Also, the same goes for taking things away. If there are things that trigger you, or take you deeper into a depression, try to get rid of those or opt out during this time. For example, if family parties stress you out during the holidays and make you feel more depressed, maybe simplify what you do, plan less of them, or tell family that you won’t be coming to as many this year.
2. Stay Connected
Depression attempts to turn you into a recluse. During depressive times, the last thing you probably want to do is talk to or interact with other people. However, it is doing exactly this that can keep you out of the darkness. So back to planning ahead, think about at least one person, or maybe a few more, that you really enjoy being around and can trust, and then let them know that you could really use their company and support more during this time. Schedule some times to be with them, or ask them if you can call whenever you need to. If this sounds too scary or awkward for you, then still make a list of your “go-to” people, and set a goal to reach out to them in some way about once a day during your down season. Maybe you just text your friend one day, call your sister the next, plan a dinner date with your husband the next…the possibilities are out there. Also, keep in mind that talking to these people doesn’t have to include you opening up about your depression every time. The purpose is simply to stay connected to the land of the living. :0)
3. Up the Self-Care
Making sure you get consistent self-care is always a must, but it becomes even more essential during times of depression. Again…make a list-schedule it in. It’s helpful to recruit support in this too. For example, letting your spouse know that this is something that is going to become vital to your healthy functioning may enable them to encourage you and help you to go through with it when you lack the motivation for yourself. A few examples of appropriate self-care may be exercise or yoga, a nightly bubble bath to relax you and help you get normal sleep, time for meditation, appointments for grooming and hygiene maintenance, stocking up on healthy food…self-care looks different for everyone. The important thing is figuring out what works for you, and making it a priority in your daily routine.
4. Engage Your Senses
Our senses serve as a direct pathway to the memory functions in our brain. Sensing something familiar can bring up all sorts of different emotions that are attached to specific memories. So, using your senses to trigger feelings of calm, excitement, or hopefulness can really help in managing seasonal depression symptoms. Think about the role each of your senses play during your “up season”, and think of ways to re-create them. For example, let’s say your “up season” in summertime. Here are some ways that you might be able to use your senses to evoke similar feelings during that time:
SMELL-wear lotion that smells like flowers or light a candle that smells tropical. This may mimic smells of spring or the beach, and ignite the emotions that you experience in your “up season”.
SOUND-It might be time to turn on some Beach Boys or listen to the wave setting on a sound machine!
SIGHT-Find a space where you can display images or objects that are reminiscent of seasons or places that you enjoy, or create one on your screen saver
TASTE-Make smoothies, cook hot dogs on a grill, or eat other foods that you would generally enjoy during the summer
TOUCH-Take a swim in an indoor pool, walk around the house in shorts and a t-shirt, or create a small sandbox that you can run your fingers through.
5. Schedule With a Therapist
This may seem like a shameless plug, but seeking professional guidance for depression, even for a short time, can be instrumental in helping you to make your way through a depressive state. If you’ve never met with a therapist, start actively looking for one now so that you can get comfortable meeting with them, and give them some background information about how seasonal depression generally looks for you. You may even discuss with them if some type of medication may be the right fit for you. If you already have one, talk with them about how to plan for your upcoming down season, and make sure you get plenty of sessions scheduled to that you can have consistent support.
Fall is right around the corner, and while some people are giddy with anticipation of sweaters, football, and holidays, many others are filled with dread as seasonal depression begins looming over their heads. Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern, or what used to be called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can happen during any season, but fall and winter seem to be the most common. Even if you don’t experience enough symptoms to call it a “disorder”, you may still feel “blue” or experience some shift in your mood and motivation. However, you don’t have to hunker down and hide away for several months before feeling happy and alive again. You can actually make it through your “down season” while still functioning effectively, and possibly even having some enjoyable days. Keep reading for 5 things that you can do to stay one step ahead of your seasonal depression.
Now, go show your seasonal depression what’s up, and enjoy yourself! You’ve got this! 👊