We all hear people around us say they feel low moods and energy when the sun starts setting earlier and the seasons change. Some even say they feel “ sad,” “under the weather,”or “gloomy” when the summer begins transitioning into fall and winter. These are all normal reactions to weather changes; however, these emotions are heightened for a few. The mood changes are almost so close to depression that in the DSM-5, this has been named a seasonal affective disorder. As per the DSM-5,
“ Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression also known as SAD, seasonal depression or winter depression. “ These symptoms usually begin at the start of fall and improve as spring approaches. An individual may experience - low moods, little interest in activities, difficulty in thinking, changes in appetite and sleep, etc. Due to the time-specific nature of this disorder, it can often feel confusing and frustrating to handle, almost like a roller coaster due to the transition from normal to low moods. The fall and winter are also a time of holidays and celebrations, families coming together, and when most individuals take a vacation or break. For those navigating through seasonal affective disorder, this time of the year can feel even more isolating and overwhelming. Therefore it is essential to think of ways to navigate this transition.
Here are some tips :
Prioritize social activities: Though it might seem challenging to get out of your house and socialize during this time of the year, it is even more important to be around friends and family. Isolation can add to our stress during the transition seasons; therefore, gathering as much social support as possible is highly beneficial.
Having an evening routine: It can be challenging to deal with the evenings, especially as the sun starts to set earlier. Creating a self-care evening routine can be extremely helpful not just to pass the time but also can be a time of the day dedicated to your mental health. Evening routine could involve journaling, cooking, cleaning your surroundings, meditation, etc.
Going for morning walks or runs: Catching as much sunlight and vitamin D during this time is very important to feel the energy boost in the morning. This can help one start the day positively, full of mental and physical energy.
Stick to a schedule: Having a rough plan can help maintain a proper sleep cycle and appetite and be on top of work. It can be challenging to get through even simple tasks while going through SAD; therefore, curating a schedule the night before can help keep things in place and help one feel more motivated.
Have realistic goals: Keeping up with work, deadlines, chores, and making time for friends and family can be overwhelming during this time of the year; therefore, it is crucial to keep realistic goals for tasks for oneself. Prioritizing your mental health should be the primary goal, and creating other plans around that can be a good start. Remember not to feel guilty and not take pressure over managing everything; taking time for rest and setting smaller tasks is the key while navigating this season.
It is also important to remember when things might be getting out of your control, and seeking professional help can be an added support system. No feeling is big or small; like any other disorder, SAD is extremely personal to each individual. Understanding your symptoms and navigating them with a professional can make the journey easier. In some cases, doctors and mental health professionals may prescribe medication and vitamin supplements that can boost one’s mood. With the holiday’s around the corner, remember to take time for yourself first. Prioritizing your mental health and taking things day by day is so important. And remind yourself winter always turns to spring!
Mental Health Counselor Intern