Ah January, you cold, frigid, ugly month. You are deceiving to me. The sun is shining bright outside, yet you are arctic cold. It hurts to breathe. Your arrival is a glamour, fun, party. Making me think of goals, resolutions, and changes. Ha, but I know you better than that. You and your bestie February are cruel, mean, and just down right hard to get through. March isn’t much better.
I mean, I can’t be the only one that feels this way. I so look forward to Fall. The leaves changing, football, pumpkin explosion everywhere. I can smell the happiness in the air. My favorite time of year. The anticipation of the holidays, the excitement that fills the days. The twinkly lights, festive decor, warm and cozy homes.
Then January, February, and March hit. Ugh. The worst. In the past two years, these months have beaten me down, barely leaving me recognizable. Knowing this, I have been preparing myself. Why? Because along with my lovely depression and anxiety, I am hit with SAD. And there is a good chance you will too.
SAD or seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. This can hit at anytime of the year but it is most common in the winter months. How common? Around 3 million people in the US will be diagnosed or show symptoms.
Signs of SAD include all the symptoms of major depression plus having low energy, hypersomnia, overeating, weight gain, carb craving, and social withdrawal. So basically I become a bear going in to hibernation. I eat everything, sleep all day, don’t want to be around people, and fall into an active depressive state. For those that do not have mental illness, SAD can be a hiccup in your routine. You may notice you are feeling more down than normal. For me and I am guessing others with depression, SAD is the jumping off point to a more severe depression episode. (That’s what I like to call them, those very active months of depression).
This year, I am more aware of my proneness to SAD. I have been preparing myself and discussing it with my therapist. And if you are just coming to know me, you will find out that I am not going to allow this to get the best of me.
So here is what I am going to try and maybe it will help you too. Also, if you are reading this and do not have a mental illness, these ideas might still benefit you during these dreary winter months.
Endorphins are like crack. They give you a high that can last minutes, hours, and days. The more you do it, the better. For me, I am not a fan. I would rather be outside walking, riding a bike, playing with my kids. Currently it is 10 degrees outside. The gym gives me nightmares. So it is loud music, 25 minutes of Sean T, and a sweaty me on the floor. I don’t like it but I also don’t like being depressed. If I can though, I will be bundling up and taking the workout outdoors.
Increase the meds
If you know that winter hits you hard, call your doctor. Please do not sit in shame and silence. It doesn’t benefit anyone. Right now, I am good. But I will be calling my doctor at the first sign I am struggling. Don’t forget about therapy either. Increasing sessions might not be a bad idea.
Be around people
This was my biggest mistake last year. I started to go under and I retreated into my home and didn’t leave. I didn’t let my family and friends know how I was feeling. I cancelled playdates and girl’s night out. Also, I wasn’t going to therapy. DO NOT DO THIS! Repeat. DO NOT DO THIS! Tell your peeps. Announce it to the tribe. Force yourself to get out of the house. God made us to be connected with other people. Surrounding ourselves with those we love is good for our heart and health. So get your butt to your girlfriends house or open your home to others. Now repeat this step over and over again.
Sit in the light
Metaphorically I talk a lot about the light. Here I am literally saying sit in the light. Sunlight. Get that Vitamin D in you. Light therapy is a real thing. Rather than spend oodles of money on a blue light, open the blinds, pull a comfy chair over, and warm yourself in the rays. On the gray days, pop a few Vitamin D pills. But remember the light is always important in those dark days.
Since this doesn’t apply to my life right now, I can’t really get the benefits. But you can. Why does sex help? Well, first the physical touch. Connecting with another human being. Feeling loved and secure. Second, an orgasm releases endorphins too. And you burn calories and it’s fun. It’s a win win. Depression can decrease sexual interest and pleasure. Make sure you talk with your partner about how you are feeling. You most likely are not in the mood for sex. (See lack of energy, lots of sleep, and can’t get off the couch) but give it the good ole college try. I have a feeling in the end you will be glad you did.
Now, I am not a doctor or a therapist or any expert of any kind. But I do live with depression and anxiety. I have done my research. I have had hits and misses with treatments. Yet, I am still learning what works best for me because I am also learning that my depression changes. I also know that these winter months are a bitch. Too many struggle. I struggle.
For more information:
And always if you are in need of immediate help, please (PLEASE) call 911 or
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255