Coping with Seasonal Depression

Tips and Strategies for Colorado Life in the Winter

From your RAFT Counseling Team

Those of us living in Colorado love all of the seasons we have. But winters can still be tough and often bring cold weather and snow, that impact not only what we do, but how we feel. During the winter months, we get less sunlight and hide away indoors to keep warm. 

Less social interactions and daylight can cause some people to experience symptoms of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Seasonal Depression. You may dread its return because you know what comes with it:

  • Constant exhaustion and sluggishness
  • Little interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Excess anxiety and irritability
  • Feeling hopeless or guilty for not feeling like yourself
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal and rejection sensitivity

Here are some tips to help you through those dark and cold months:

1. Prioritize Sunlight and Vitamin D

Low levels of vitamin D in the body often correlate with symptoms of depression. One way humans naturally acquire vitamin D is through sunshine, which is why we tend to feel happier in the summer than we do in the winter. 

Adding a vitamin D supplement to your morning routine can help ease depression symptoms. Getting outside can also help, so take advantage of any hours you can be in the sunlight. Here in Colorado, there are dozens of ways to enjoy the sun out in the snow.

  • Bundling up for a walk through some of Parker’s 38 miles of trail
  • Racing down a snowy mountain on skis or a snowboard
  • Snowshoeing through tranquil and snowier parks
  • Entering your home in a holiday decorating contest or being a judge

If the snow isn’t your thing, some people also find success with indoor light therapy. 

While sun lamps don’t affect vitamin D levels, studies show that spending only 20 minutes a day in front of one can increase serotonin and melatonin production to improve your mood and sleep. Just make sure it’s a sun lamp specifically designed for SAD to filter out harmful rates of UV light.

2. Stay Realistic About the Holidays

Cultural and economic messaging tells us this time of year is supposed to feel magical—love explodes, gifts flow, and fond memories form. This puts a lot of pressure on you to be happy when your brain is chemically more capable of the opposite.

Stay honest about your feelings and consider venting to a loved one. Use “I feel…” statements to describe sensations in your body and mind instead of criticizing loved ones and driving them away.

3. Be a Giver

Studies prove that volunteering our service and giving to others does wonders for mental health. It reduces stress and boosts dopamine levels, making us feel more relaxed and purposeful. 

This does not mean to overspend on gifts. Instead, help serve at a food shelter, organize at a gift drive, or help a friend clean out a closet. Staying in the present with others is often the best gift we can give ourselves. 

If you’re a creative person, keep gifts cheap and instead have fun with the wrapping. Hand-draw your own designs on blank paper, incorporate natural elements like dried holly or pine leaves, and learn new bow-wrapping techniques.

4. Look for the Positives

One tactic for coping with seasonal depression (or any depression that follows a big change in your life) is to consider what doors open from the change instead of focusing on the ones that shut.

Humans have spent a long time coming up with ways to get through the winter. Shorter days and colder nights can be brutal, so making the most of them is key to keeping your mood up. More time indoors can mean feeling stifled, or it can mean feeling inspired from finally hitting that list of never-before-seen movies you put off.

Seeing the open doors is easier said than done, which is why working with a therapist can help. Caring and compassionate therapists at RAFT Counseling utilize cognitive and behavioral tools that redirect negative thinking patterns into more compassionate, helpful ones, so you can feel more like yourself this winter. We can help with those and offer a safe space for managing depression, partnering with you to feel better and look forward to your days. If we can help, reach out to us toady to get started!

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