As we head further into the winter months, the days are reaching much cooler temperatures, we arrive home from work to discover it’s already dark outside … cue the automatic mood dampener. During these days, it is more critical than ever to focus on our mental health, as well as to be aware of the symptoms when something is truly wrong and help is needed.
What is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly referred to as seasonal depression in the media, is a type of depression that typically occurs during a change in the seasons – usually when fall starts, heightens in the early winter days, and culminates when the sun comes back out for springtime. Some will often refer to a mild version of seasonal depression as the “winter blues” since it’s perfectly OK to feel a little down on yourself during the darker and colder winter months. However, full-fledged seasonal depression is more than just your occasional wintertime sadness – it has a lasting daily impact on your life regarding how you think, feel, and function. It is a form of depression, and therefore can be treated through antidepressants, a form of talking therapy, or light therapy (whatever your GP recommends).
- Persistent feelings of despair and/or worthlessness
- Loss of interest in typical daily activities + withdrawal from social activities
- Sleeping issues – oversleeping, difficulty waking up in the morning
- Extreme lethargy + lacking energy during the day
- Sadness, anxiety, and feeling depressed most of the day, every day
- Craving carbohydrates and weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritability + Agitation
- Decreased sex drive
What can we do to improve our mental health this winter?
Exposure to Natural Light
It can be so easy to isolate yourself in the wintertime months by cosying up under your covers with a warm blanket and a mug of hot cocoa... and while that's OK to do occasionally, it shouldn't be an everyday habit. Exposure to sunlight plays a significant role in regulating our moods as it helps to increase our body's levels of vitamin D; a deficiency in vitamin D leads to depressive moods. Whether it is taking a quick walk outside or simply sitting by a window with your blinds open -- anytime in the sunlight is better than none!
It can be easy to skimp out on sleep during the holiday season especially as you're in a whirlwind of celebrations, preparations, and gift-giving. But ensuring that critical 7-9 hours of sleep per night will help keep you both physically and mentally fit while helping prevent you from catching one of the many illnesses going around. Proper sleep will leave feeling more energized longer throughout the day as well.
We know it can be hard to motivate yourself to exercise and the cold weather certainly does not help that -- try attending workout classes, exercising with a friend, or a workout program with an app to keep you accountable. Mix it up so you don't fall into a monotonous routine and give yourself something new to look forward to each week. Remember that there are so many different forms of working out -- yoga, dancing, swimming, cycling -- the list goes on!
Nothing like a moment for self-care and cleansing -- a favourite of ours here at Verdant Alchemy! There's no better mental reset after a challenging day at work or school than a steaming hot bath or shower, and what better way to spice up your nightly ritual than with some bath salts to truly refresh yourself. Complete the self-care with an after bath or shower face mask for the full effect! Use our favourite products here at Verdant Alchemy such as Ascent Bath & Shower Oil or the Breathe In, Bath Salts!
Communication + Connection
Emphasis on the double C's is key, as being social positively impacts your mood. Make an effort to either reach out to family/friends or accept invitations to social outings because being around others -- especially those you care about and enjoy company with -- will bring you an instant serotonin boost. Go to that concert you've been meaning to, see that show at the theatre, catch up with an old friend over dinner, volunteer for a good cause ... the list is endless!