Depression and Winter Blues? 10 Tips for Coping

The temperature drops for a day in September. Cool, gray, rainy. For some people, a visceral fear passes through their system. Especially people with mood disorders.
The shorter days and increased darkness can be very difficult for those prone to depression.

Oh no. Winter. Which may be followed by definitive statements like, “I hate winter.”
“I am always miserable in winter.” “ I dread the cold months.”

This is a rough way to approach an entire season. Let’s see what we can do to be proactive.

1. Some folks head south to warmth and sun for a megadose of light. After trying to orchestrate their lives around the darker colder months, they decide that a quick trip to the beach mid season is a reasonable and effective cost vs. benefit.

2. I realize not everyone can afford the time and cost for a beach trip, so what are the simpler, less expensive alternatives? How about the Butterfly Pavillion, the Botanic Gardens, the local greenhouse, a sauna or steam. What places are bright, lush, warm?

3. Full spectrum light can be one component of a winter program. Whether that is a light box, or intentionally getting as much natural light as possible or a combination of both, light matters. Devices range from dawn simulators to full spectrum light bulbs.

4. For some the time switch in Novemember when Daylight Savings Time ends can be a real glitch. It can be helpful to start the shift, bit by bit, in advance. Move your bedtime up incrementally before the time shifts so that you will be ready when the it comes.

5. Winter cognitive distortions. As always we can make an effort to work with our nega-tive thoughts. The stress of the increasing darkness and cold can invite all or nothing thinking. “I hate winter. There is nothing good about it. I can’t wait till it is over.” Winter becomes a heavy clunky object in our minds. How can we relax?

Challenge negative thoughts. What is true? Keep a calendar or journal. Note the
texture of your days. My guess is that there are some delightful moments, moments
of beauty, moments of connection as well as struggle. This varied texture is important
to recognize and hold. Find a new, revised statement about winter. Update the files.
“ I sometimes feel challenged in winter, and it is a time of quiet and beauty.”

6 .Firm up your routine of diet, exercise and activity. Pull out some hearty recipes and
the crockpot. Plan ahead. If you have been biking and swimming outdoors all sum-
mer, line up alternative exercise routines. Maybe classes offer better support in the
winter. Winter can be a time to join a book club or hobby club or bowling team. It can
be helpful to have regularly scheduled activities with a group that naturally pulls us
out in the evening. It we have that hook. often the feeling of “glad I showed up” over
rides the resistance.

7. Have some occasions to look forward to like a special outing, the symphony or theater, or holiday activity.

8. Acknowledge that it is winter and that we are critters with natural tendencies each season. Winter is often associated with going within, quiet reflection, hunkering down. Decide for yourself your relationship with the energy of winter. If all the holiday commotion is overwhelming and out of synch, see if you can set it up differently.

9. Help yourself by scheduling. Shape a week at a time so there is less tendency to be in survival mode. Committing to an activity in advance can make it easier to show up. There is a free report on the supportfordepression site that describes in detail Routine, Rhythm and Reflection.

10. And perhaps the hardest for some, ask for help and support.

Much like depression itself, winter mood changes can creep up on us. My hope is that by considering these 10 tips it will encourage you to take time to reflect and find your own ways of preparing and taking care of yourself this winter.