I have to admit, my mental health definitely takes a hit this time of year. I find myself much less motivated and energetic than I usually am. It can be attributed to the short, dark days and minimal sunlight that we get where I live. It took me a long time to realize I regularly experience seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can include feelings of being depressed, loss of interest in things, low energy and other related issues. This can happen with the change of any seasons, but for me it always sets in around Thanksgiving. Combine seasonal change with the holiday season and it can be even worse.
The “holiday blues” refer to fatigue, sadness, a sense of loss, and feeling down around the holidays. For anyone who has experienced any or all of these issues, hopefully they are temporary, winding down or wearing off after a short period of time. I’m sure there are many of you that may also find this time of year to be particularly hard if you have lost a loved one. I can relate to this. It’s important to first recognize how you are feeling so that you can take some steps to address it.
See if some of these tips might help during this time of year:
- If you have lost a loved one, talk with friends and family. They are likely feeling the same way.
- Don’t hesitate to get counseling support to process your feelings.
- Don’t isolate yourself. It doesn’t mean you have to go to big parties either, but try to socialize, even if it’s just going for a walk with a friend.
- Exercise. A little bit goes a long way.
- Don’t drink alcohol or do so in moderation. Alcohol is a depressant.
- Keep routines as best as possible, including sleep. This helps your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which might be out of sync due to the change of season.
- Get outside. If you live where it’s cold, you may be avoiding the outdoors. Fresh air and sunlight can be an instant mood booster.
- Be reasonable with holiday plans and expectations. Make people and relationships the focus, not things.
- Check-in with a health care provider to make sure you don’t have any deficiencies or hormonal issues. Low vitamin D, iodine, and other micronutrients can influence mood. Lack of sunlight can also impact these things which may require some supplementation.
- Plan a trip. If this is something you experience at a certain time of year (like I do) see if a getaway might help.
I feel fortunate in that my seasonal symptoms and holiday blues go away once the calendar flips to January 1. It’s like I’m a new person ready to go! Days slowly get longer. But, as an adult, I have come to realize that I have to actively guard against these things that I experience. Hopefully these tips will help, but don’t hesitate to talk with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing prolonged feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, or sadness.