And if it wasn't bad enough, 2020 decided to add a few more variables to the mix (Covid-19, quarantine, the election).
This year, mental health struggles have sky rocketed due to the complications and guidelines for combating Covid-19 (source here). An increase in loneliness and fear has resulted in more cases of depression and anxiety—all without adding seasonal depression to the long list of struggles people are dealing with.
Seasonal depression—or Seasonal Affective Disorder—is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons (source here). Starting towards the end of Fall and ending during the beginning of Spring, seasonal depression affects almost 10 million Americans each year (source here). People who are experiencing seasonal depression may struggle with fatigue, weight gain, sadness, hopelessness, and even thoughts of suicide.
I myself, struggle with seasonal depression. I felt my body affected immediately once the weather shifted and the sunshine became a rare commodity. Because of this, I decided to put together seven strategies for dealing with seasonal depression. My hope is that you will be able to implement a few of these strategies into your life so that this season won't be as dark as it has been in past years.
1) Force Yourself To Get Up At The Same Time Each Day:
Trust me, I get it. Depression makes it extremely difficult to roll out of bed and face the day ahead. Most days, if I even get out of bed it is a win. However, our bodies are creatures of habit (source here). If you force yourself to get up every single day at the same time, eventually getting out of bed will become easier.
If we want to be emotionally healthy, we have to be physically healthy (source here). Our bodies will respond positively to physical activities. Even if you can't afford a gym membership or the weather isn't cooperating for a walk or slow jog, there are hundreds of workout routines you can do in your home. Here are 15 at-home workouts you can do without a gym membership.
3) Implement TAWG Into Your Morning Routine:
TAWG (time alone with God) is probably the most important part of fighting seasonal depression. I notice immediate changes in my mood after I calm my heart and spend 30 minutes of time alone with God. TAWG can include journaling, coloring, reading, worshiping, creating, and so much more. Anything that connects you to an intimate time of worship with God will help prepare your heart for the day ahead.
4) Set Up A Next-Day Schedule The Night Before:
If you know that there are things you need to accomplish the next day, put together a schedule the night before and set reminders in your phone to hold you accountable to your chosen time slots. This will give you a sense of comfort knowing that the day is planned out and all you need to do is show up.
5) Eat Healthy:
This can be a difficult one for many because processed food and fast food are cheaper and more accessible. However, studies show that the things we put in our bodies will not only affect our physical being, but also our mental (source here). Make sure you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
6) Avoid Alcohol:
While alcohol can soothe your mind and heart temporarily, studies show that it actually worsens your depression long term (source here). If you are feeling depressed, avoid the consumption of alcohol and stick to water or juice.
7) Connect With Friends:
This is probably the most difficult one to do when you are depressed, but can be the most rewarding. God created us for community (see Genesis 2). I encourage you to spend at *least* one day a week with a friend or group of friends during the winter months. The benefits for your mental health will be astronomical.
Please reach out to me if you are struggling with seasonal depression and need someone to walk with. We are in this together. God's got us.