Have you heard of winter blues before? I had not until a few years ago. It was about this time of a year, and I became pretty depressed. There were some challenges with my job that I think triggered the spiral. Ever since that time, I’m more aware of how easy it is for me to get depressed this time of year. You’d think with the holidays approaching that every thing would be fun and jolly. Well, it is, at times, but there are also those times when it’s not.
Many people may get what is called the “winter blues,” a seasonal depression, and if it’s a mild or a light case, this depression can be helped relatively easily, without medication and with some proactive measures. According to an article from National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. Matthew Rudorfer explains that winter blues is used as a general term and is considered more mild than serious and can eventually go away within a short amount of time. He goes on to say that many times this depression is triggered by the stress of the holidays and reminders of lost loved ones. Ding! Ding! Ding! That would be me.
It is worth noting that there can be more intense and serious cases of depression during the winter months called Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). Dr. Rudorfer mentions that this depression is “a well-defined clinical diagnosis that’s related to the shortening of daylight hours” and it “interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time” (para 4).
I have always felt that as the days get darker sooner during this time of year that I was affected by that, especially since I worked in a room with no windowns! I never knew what was going on outside during the day. I would head to work and it was dark! By the time I I drove home it was dark. Dr. Rudorfer goes on to explain that there is a pattern to SAD, meaning it flares up during the winter with “less light” months and clears up during the spring and summer time.
For me, I feel the less daylight hours, along with the stresses of the holidays, can easily trigger winter blues. I don’t know about you, but I can hide my emotions pretty well. My husband was pretty unaware of my feelings when I was really depressed a few years ago.
I didn’t want to get out of bed, go to work, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was willing to lie to get out of responsibilities if it meant I could avoid certain activities that fed into my depression. I feel like this is especially easy to do around the holidays because the good times can easily mask the rough patches from those close to you. Husband just thought I was sick–like physically sick. Honestly, I think I made myself sick. The mind can do amazing things. The built up anxiety can do wonders to the body. I found I am easily prone to ulcers if anxiety and depression settle in for a winter vacation and my winter blues to be kicked up a notch.
The holidays can create this tension that pulls you up and quickly pushes you down. One minute you’re excited to be home for the weekend and be able to spend time with your family and as Monday approaches, the dread settles in. Eventually this dread causes you to take action–sick for the day, which turns in to days, which might lead to resentment for the obligations you made two months ago and now you’re supposed to host this Christmas party you completely forgot about, which cuts in to the indoor soccer game you planned on watching of your son, which takes a night away from you and your husband hanging out and you feel like this always happens this time of year.
Why can’t you just get a grip? Great. You’re starting to get sick. You’re waking up in the night because you can’t sleep. Oh man. Now the real monster comes out to play when you start operating on less sleep.
I find myself walking this balance beam at times during this time of year, and try to take proactive steps to prevent winter blues from settling in.
I am by no means an expert. These tips should not replace any sort of medical advice you may receive or should not replace a reader seeking medical attention for any kind of depression.
Get outside as much as you can.
If you know that you dislike the hour changes, then try to get outside as much as you can. When I was at my job, I would use my lunch break and plan period to take a quick step outside, either for a short walk or a quick breath of fresh air. I would try not to check my phone and just enjoy being outside for a brief moment. The National Institute of health found that people diagnosed with SAD who underwent light therapy had an “improvement in depression scores after the first treatment of light” (para 11). This can apply too for getting outside more often.
Talk with someone about what you’re feeling…seriously, do it.
Why do we tend to be so secretive about being depressed? Depression seems to have such a negative stigma, almost like it’s a sign of weakness. Satan couldn’t be anymore glad if no one ever talked about their depression, whether it’s mild or serious. If no one is talking about it, then many are probably not getting help or being proactive, which means more people missing out on God’s amazing grace!
When you feel the depression starting to creep up, evaluate positive ways to cope and possibly divert the depression.
For me, a key ingredient to fighting the hormones that come with depression is exercise. For my husband, it’s having a time of no responsibilities in the home, a break from the every day routine. Another coping tool for me is sleep. I can get in serious ruts with little sleep (which made Postpartum Depression really hard to deal with for me!). Since it’s dark anyways, I tend to just go to bed earlier if I feel tired, then getting up early the next day to meet my obligations seems less daunting.
What might be some tools you have that could help you with this? Have you taken the time to evaluate what they might be? Have you talked with someone about this?
Deal with what you can control and seek guidance for the rest.
This tends to be the biggest obstacle for me and it is so easily said than done at times. I can’t control other people’s actions. I can control my emotions and actions. Another easier said than done…cough cough.
For me, this means everyday I have to remind myself that I am a child of God and no matter what happens, He is with me and is there no matter what. If the finances are falling apart or your brother wont talk to you or you’re reminded of your sweet grandma and her delicious cookies which aren’t around anymore, then those are the times to look for guidance. Counseling may be an effective tool for you this time of year in particular.
As I mentioned, for me I have to speak to myself the promises of God from his Word. I don’t always remember those promises in the heat of emotions. I like to write them down on cards and place them around the house, in my purse, in my car.
I can control how many Christmas parties I host. I can control how many activities I get my family involved in. I can control how much money I spend on others. I always think of Matthew 5:37 when Jesus says something along the lines of “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I have always felt this means if you say you’re going to do something, you should follow through and if you can’t do it, then just say so. I’m sorry my good friend, but we’ve got too much going on already to go to that party you mentioned. I’m sorry cousin, but this argument is between you and your sister. I would prefer to stay out of it. Again, easier said than done. But if we’re doing what we know is right, then we have to trust that decision.
Try not to worry about appearing weak.
Honestly, I was nervous to talk to my husband about it because I didn’t want to appear weak. There it is again, that stupid stigma. Eventually, he caught on though. My demeanor had changed too much at home and he brought me out to talk about some things.
Having someone close that can help you be “accountable” can be very beneficial for some people. Someone who can remind you in a loving way to speak positive in those low moments or maybe remind you to speak God’s Word. Someone who can walk with you during those low moments. Some might prefer someone who isn’t close to them, maybe a therapist, someone you might feel you can be more open with. Either way, the more you keep things in the worse things can get and spiral out of control.
Clinical depression can be far worse and should be treated as soon as possible. This post is not to minimize someone’s experience with serious depression and all the obstacles that come with it. If you feel you are on any path of depression, seek help as soon as you can.
Have you experienced Winter Blues? If so, what have you found that works best for you? Any tips to avoid depression during the holidays?