Minnesota winters are beautiful. A dusting of snow and building a snowman or sledding down a hill always brings a smile to my face. The variety of winter activities available is what brings, and keeps, many of us Minnesotans here.
As beautiful as it is, Minnesota (in the winter) can also be a tough place to live. Many of us struggle with the wintertime blues. The darkness of our skies in the morning and night often mirror the moods of those around us. Some studies have ranked Minnesota as having higher rates of seasonal depression that our sunnier (and warmer) states in the South.
There are varying degrees of depression, some are so debilitating that it’s a challenge to get out of bed in the morning. Others cause a blanket of sadness to be a constant companion. If you’ve experienced depression in the past, or live with it everyday, you may dread the winter as you anticipate what’s to come each year.
For people who experience depression, they might find that their mood takes a downturn when the seasons shift into winter. From the lack of light, to lack of movement, it’s hard to decipher the cause for this kind of depression. Regardless, there are some simple strategies that can help you manage your low mood and energy this season.
1. Listen to your body and honor the season
It’s natural to want to hibernate more in the winter. It’s not natural to want to completely isolate yourself and never come out of that hibernation. Learn to listen to your tendencies and discern if you are fluxing with the season and simply crave slowing down, or if your wanting to hide from the world is a sign of depression.
2. Be kind and gentle with yourself
Many of us have the tendency to be our worst critic and get angry when we aren’t living up to our own expectations. There is nothing wrong with having goals. There’s also nothing wrong with incorporating some softness in your day and inserting some kindness towards your self. Your energy level might shift this time of year, so honor the shift with compassion instead of pushing yourself so hard.
3. Move your Body
We all know that exercise releases endorphins into our bodies and can help us feel good. What we might not realize is that it also helps to boost our mood and combats lethargy so that it’s easier to get up off of the couch. You don’t have to get to the gym, just move your body in a way that feels good and gets your blood pumping.
4. Insert some light and warmth into your life
Studies show that light therapy is one of the most effective treatments for seasonal depression. I would argue that warmth can also help during the cold winter months. Get outside and soak in some vitamin D from the sun but then treat yourself to a sauna, cup of tea or good old fashioned soak in the tub.
5. Reach out for support and talk to someone
Know that you are not alone. Whether you reach out to a trained therapist or a family friend, it’s helpful to talk about what you are experiencing. There is no shame in reaching out for support, on the contrary, it is an act of courage and sign of strength.
By Nicole Lovald, LAMFT, E-RYT