Have you noticed any changes in yourself lately? Maybe you have a harder-than-usual time of getting out of bed in the morning, and you’ve been sleeping a lot. Or, you can’t seem to shake this feeling of “meh.” Things may not seem very fun or interesting because you just don’t really care. You might find yourself not wanting to go anywhere in the evenings and spending more time bingeing on shows and vegging out. With this low energy and desire to hibernate, you may also notice that you’re spending more time alone or not connecting as well with your partner, friends or loved ones.
If you’re thinking I’ve got your number, you may have a case of the “blues.” In technical terms, I’m referring to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is basically some mild depression which may be brought on by the shorter days and longer nights. Even though we may not be having below zero temps and blizzards here in Sacramento (thank goodness!), SAD can be triggered by the oh-so-short daylight hours or even by darker, grayer days (although here’s to hoping we can get some more rain, stat!). This simple change in daylight can actually throw our biological clocks out of rhythm, which can bring on symptoms of depression. There’s also some thought that the drop in sunlight may decrease serotonin (a body chemical that impacts mood) and may disrupt melatonin, which aids our bodies in sleeping and in mood regulation. All this to say—the fewer sunlight hours and the more clouds may be to blame for your “meh.”
So, what can you do?
- This might be a great time to get some extra support in therapy. Sometimes talking though these feelings, exploring what’s going on and reviewing or adding in new coping skills may be just what you need to get you back in balance.
- Light therapy can be a helpful treatment. Since these blues are triggered by a lack of sunlight, it stands to reason that getting more light could reverse the effects. You can find all sorts of options for lightbox therapy, such as this well-regarded one on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sphere-Gadget-Technologies-Lightphoria-Energy/dp/B004JF3G08/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1516406844&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=sphere+gadget+technologies+lightphoria%2C+10%2C000+lux+energy+light+lamp&psc=1.
- Reach out to people. I know, it’s usually the exact opposite of what you want to do when you’re feeling depressed, but it really is the thing you need to do. Isolation tends to feed depressive symptoms, so the more you can get out of the house or connect with other people, the better. Don’t worry; I’m not suggesting you need to do this every day. A good place to start is to focus on having one more social contact a week than you’ve been having. This might be calling a friend who lives across the country for a good chat session, trying out that new Meetup group (you know it was one of your resolutions ;) ) or inviting some coworkers out for dinner or happy hour.
And remember, if you find yourself struggling with the winter blues, it’s not your fault. Your body’s just responding to this change in seasons, so give yourself a little love and take some steps to take care of you. You deserve it.
By Ivy Griffin, Director, LMFT
Thrive Therapy & Counseling
1614 X Street, Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95818