As the nights grow ever longer in the winter months, millions of people around the world may find themselves suffering from depression or seasonal affective disorder. These seasonal changes may manifest in lowered mood, a decrease in energy, lowered self-esteem, and other depressive symptoms that can interfere with daily functioning.
Science tells us that depression is a major mental health condition caused by a neurochemical imbalance and often triggered by situational factors. As such, there is no way of outright preventing depression per se — but there are ways of mitigating it. Read on to find out more about some ways in which you can manage depression and still live a full, happy life even in the heart of winter.
1. Reach out.
There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. Staying in touch with friends and family is vital to maintaining a healthy social life and a safety net of support to help you when you’re feeling down. Isolation will only worsen feelings of despondency, and the darker months can make it feel impossible to snap out of anti-social habits. It is also definitely worth considering seeking professional help so that you can get expert assistance. Don’t wait until it gets severe — you can talk with a therapist about a problem of any level of difficulty.
You might also consider mental health resources like group therapy sessions, online support groups, and crisis lines for emergency situations. An alternative to crisis lines are warm lines, which are phone or text lines that you can call up simply to have a chat with a friendly volunteer.
2. Practice self-care.
Self-care can mean all the difference when managing a serious mental health issue like depression. Maintaining healthy habits like eating well, staying hydrated, and keeping active can help boost moods and break you out of depressive downturns. It may be easier said than done, as depression often disrupts appetite and sleep patterns, but even the smallest efforts are worth it.
Sometimes self-care just means cleaning your room or changing into a new set of clothes to give yourself a new frame of mind. Many self-care activities can also be practiced safely within the warmth of your own room if you’re not feeling up to stepping outside. Light some candles, run a warm bath, or practice some relaxing yoga. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, as long as it helps you navigate your daily life with greater ease.
3. Be patient with yourself.
Battling depression can feel like a war against yourself. Recognize that the enemy is not yourself, but simply the mental condition you are experiencing. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fumble your routine or find it impossible to drag yourself out of bed for the day. Simply reset when you feel able to, and focus on the present.
When faced with a problem that seems too large and insurmountable to deal with, try breaking it into smaller, manageable steps and pieces. It can be life-changing to realize that doing things half-way is better than not doing it at all. Not up to a full shower? At least try throwing a little water on your face to freshen up. Tired of cooking? Don’t feel guilty about placing an order for take-out. The most important thing is making it through the day. That’s an achievement in yourself, and it’s one that you should absolutely be proud of.