Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression or winter blues, can hit hard in northern climates like Montana. That’s partly because one of the biggest causes of this disorder is lower levels of sunlight as days get shorter into winter. And on some of the shortest days here in Southwest Montana, it can be hard to get enough light to help with significant serotonin production, especially when it’s common for the sun to set before the working day is even done.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call the national 24/7 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. You’re not alone if you’re feeling down in the winter, and help is available. Here are seven ways to try to help ease your symptoms of seasonal depression.
If you think you’re part of the 5% of the population in the US dealing with SAD, your best first step is to talk to your provider and keep them involved in how you’re feeling. They can evaluate you to see if a seasonal depression diagnosis makes sense. And they can prescribe medication if that’s the correct route for you or recommend other treatment options.
With short days and low angles of the sun, not to mention winter storms and overcast skies, it can be hard to find bright light. Do your best by keeping windows clean, cutting branches that block the sun, and hanging curtains outside the edge of the window frame to let in as much light as possible. Your provider might suggest light therapy with a special light box too.
Even on gray, gloomy days, the sunlight filtering through the clouds can help you feel better. The more time you can spend outside in winter, the better. Take a walk, go snowshoeing, spend a day on the ski hill, or enjoy a few minutes bundled up and sitting on a park bench.
Moving your body is one of the ways to help your mental health. It can be more difficult to get movement naturally in the winter, especially when cold weather keeps you inside or icy sidewalks mean you drive more than you might in summer. Find an at-home workout that works for you, or take a walk in a local mall or box store if you can’t go outside to help get in some movement.
It can be challenging to connect with the community when you’re not feeling well. But spending time with friends and family has proven benefits for your mental health that can help you feel better when dealing with seasonal depression. Reach out to loved ones and spend time together if you can, volunteer, join a club, or attend free talks and workshops at your local library.
Since a decrease in energy can go along with SAD, it’s vital to ensure you get enough good-quality sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours each day to be healthy. But at the same time, you don’t want to get too much. Too much sleep can actually make you feel worse. Talk to your provider if you notice a change in your sleep patterns.
Therapy can be an effective way to cope with any form of depression, including seasonal depression. Your primary care provider can refer you to a therapist if you don’t have one already. Or you can take part in CHP’s behavioral health therapy sessions by Zoom and phone.
Community Health Partners serves Southwest Montana with affordable and compassionate care for both your physical and mental health. Reach out to make an appointmentat your closest clinic.