Managing Seasonal Depression


Created by
Karen Gray CH, RN

The days are still getting shorter, and there are many who are still adjusting to the darkness on their drive home from work. We have had a couple decent storms, but the weather has been as varied as the seasons themselves. The holiday season is over, family and friends have gone home, and the political and social climate of the country is tense and uncertain at best.


There is no question that this is a very stressful time of year.


Stress, as we know, comes in a few different forms. Acute Stress happens when we are faced with an immediate threat and our “fight-or-flight” response kicks in, making changes to our body to get us ready to bolt or fight for our lives. This is a short-term response to a short-term dangerous situation.


Chronic Stress happens when the perceived danger doesn’t go away. Imagine a tiger laying at your feet. You would be constantly on edge, not knowing if the tiger was going to get up and eat you or stay sleeping. Your body stays in a constant state of readiness. That readiness means that you are at high alert almost constantly. And that is exhausting. In that exhaustion, we can very easily begin to experience depression.


What it Looks Like

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It is important to remember that depression is a spectrum. The difference between Winter Blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and a major depressive disorder is the type, duration, and severity of the symptoms.


The Blues

The Winter Blues hit everyone at some point. It’s dark most of the time, we are stuck indoors, and we begin to feel a little down. The Winter Blues are short and mild episodes of sadness, often without any other symptoms. The Blues last only a few days, and do not interfere with daily life.


Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)

Seasonal Affective Disorder is estimated to affect about 10 million Americans. SAD is thought to be triggered by the reduced number of daylight hours during the Winter months. Other factors such as cold temperatures and weak daylight can make symptoms worse. S.A.D. is depression that follows a seasonal pattern.


People with S.A.D. often sleep and eat more, possibly gaining weight as a result. In contrast, people with major depression tend to have difficulty sleeping and don't have much appetite. It is also less common for people with S.A.D. to think about suicide. This might be because there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. People know that Spring is coming, and they're going to feel better eventually.


Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder is identified by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy life. Normal functioning is impaired. The symptoms do not correspond to seasons or other life events. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, and even years. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most people who experience it need treatment to get better. Major depression


The Cycle of Depression

Normally, you would encounter a stressful event, navigate through it, and then have time to reflect on the experience while you recover physically and emotionally. By the time you get to the next stressful life event, you are refreshed and ready to go.


In depression, after you navigate through a stressful life event, a period of self-doubt and negative self-talk begins, renewing the state of emotional stress. There is no time for the mind and body to recover between these stressful events. The result is exhaustion. Exhaustion makes it difficult to think and perform to our potential, which can cause more self doubt and negative self-talk.


To further complicate matters, depression is often difficult to describe. Despite awareness campaigns and the availability of information about depression, there is still a strong perception of stigma associated with depression. Depression creates the feeling that something is wrong with us, and as a result, we often try our best to look as “normal” as possible. This can cause an even greater divide and strengthen the symptoms of depression.


Steps to Take Next

If you are feeling depressed, down, blue, too tired, or off your game, make an appointment with your doctor or mental health provider. If you are already being treated for depression, let them know that you are still experiencing symptoms. It might be time to explore other treatment options. Here are some other simple things you can do to lift your mood.


Make Your Environment Brighter

Since S.A.D. symptoms can be triggered by the shorter days, the extra light can help to relieve symptoms. Sitting next to an artificial light for 30 minutes, opening blinds and curtains, and sitting closer to windows can help elevate your mood.


Eat Smarter

Try adding two pieces of fruit or two servings of vegetable to what you normally eat every day to keep your body fueled and give you a feeling of overall health.


Exercise

A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. And exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression.


Turn Up the Volume

Listening to music that makes you feel upbeat or happy lights up certain areas of your brain and improves your mood.


Phone A Friend

Connecting with your friends and family on a regular basis can relieve isolation and improve depressive symptoms.


Help others

It’s impossible to think about yourself and someone else at the same time. Volunteering your time can help shift your focus away from yourself and help you to feel more productive and increasing your interaction with others.


Get outside

Spending time outside, even when it’s chilly, can improve your focus, reduce symptoms of S.A.D. and depression, and lower your stress levels.


Soon, the days will get longer, and we will all be thawing out and looking forward to long summer days. Until then, keep taking care of yourself!


The Role of Hypnosis

One of the most overlooked resources in breaking that cycle of negativity and exhaustion is hypnosis. You have probably heard me say it before, “You are what you say you are.” Hypnosis allows you to heal from the inside out. Using advanced hypnotic techniques, you can undo years of harm and hurt in a matter of hours. You can forgive yourself, and others, and work through the process of healing.


The subconscious mind considers patterns of behavior to be habits, and habits are notoriously hard to break from the outside on purpose. The subconscious mind uses habits and patterns to keep you alive. If they were easy to change, then we wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves or regulate our bodies efficiently.


Using hypnosis, you can change your inner dialogue, and the way you feel about yourself. Hypnosis allows us to go directly to the subconscious mind and change the unhealthy habits, patterns, and behaviors from the inside, replacing them with healthier and more beneficial beliefs.


With the self doubt and negative self talk out of the way, you now have time to renew and recover from those stressful life events. The exhaustion is eliminated, and the cycle is ended. You can also use hypnosis to change the way you experience stressful situations, so that you are calmer and more focused in everything that you do.


No matter how you decide to get help with depression, remember that you are not stuck. You are not alone. And you can feel better. You don’t have to pretend to be okay. In the time it takes you to have lunch, you can change how you think about yourself.∎


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Available 24 hours everyday


Karen Gray is a Certified Hypnotist, a Registered Nurse, and the Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, contact Karen at karengray@greenmountainhypnosis.com, or (802) 566-0464.

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