How To Combat Seasonal Depression During COVID-19
As the days get shorter and the darkness sets in, it’s normal to get into a slump. While many of us feel the “winter blues” to some extent, it can prove to be more difficult for others if seasonal depression sets in. And with holiday stress and COVID-19 to top it off, this winter will be a new level of challenging.
Traveling to the East Coast for college, I’ll never forget my first winter. People just disappeared, as if there was some unspoken rule to start hibernating. From a psychological perspective, I found it interesting. Why does winter equal depression? When the sun came out it meant, “I can be happy” and winter meant, “I can be sad.”
While many people experience one or two symptoms of seasonal depression, there are some who suffer from seasonal affective disorder — a depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year.
If you normally feel sad during the winter months or suffer from seasonal depression, here are several tips to boost your mood and mental health:
1. Reframe your perspective
Even if you’re not a winter person, you can still make the most of the season.
In many cases, the winter blues can be cured by changing your mindset. It’s simply making a conscious choice not to fall into old thinking patterns. Rather than getting stressed and spiraling, you can take back control of your thoughts.
For example, instead of thinking, “winter is coming. It’s too dark. I’m too tired. It’s too cold to do anything,” you can say “winter is a great opportunity to rest and recharge” and “there are many fun activities to do in the cold weather.”
Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t. While you can’t control the weather, you can control how you choose to react to it.
2. Try aromatherapy
Science confirms the mental health benefits of aromatherapy, particularly when it comes to those who suffer from seasonal depression. According to research, there are certain essential oils proven to improve your mood and control your body’s internal clock – which also affects your sleep and appetite.
Looking to reduce stress and anxiety? Lavender helps calm the nervous system, stimulating a relaxation response in the mind and body.
Want an energy boost? Citrus essential oils, especially lemon, invigorate the senses. Peppermint also has energizing effects.
3. If you can’t get outside, let the light in
Studies show there is a strong connection between Vitamin D and depression. Spending time outdoors is important, even if it’s just a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood.
And here’s a fun fact: the sun is brightest from 12 to 2pm, so if you want the most health benefits, go for an afternoon stroll.
If you’re unable to get Vitamin D by going outside, let in as much natural sunlight as possible. For people who suffer from seasonal depression, being in a bright environment is essential.
4. Be proactive
As with many things in life, being prepared is half the battle. Instead of isolating, fill your schedule with activities you enjoy. Have weekly zoom chats with friends, sign up for virtual events and classes, and plan a family ski weekend.
If you tend to fall into a winter slump, take a proactive approach this year. You’ve got this!