It is easy to get a case of the blues during the darkest, coldest part of the year. The weather has gotten so cold that even our pets won’t go outside. My oldest teenager has been hibernating for about two months now. I ask him repeatedly if he is depressed and he says that he isn’t, but I am dubious. How about you? Are you coping with midwinter blues? Do you feel like hibernating and eating cupcakes and curling up under a blanket ?
This time of the year is the worst for feeling depressed. Anything that was already difficult can seem impossible to accomplish once the blues set in. Some people say that they have trouble coping with normal aspects of life: paying bills, dealing with holidays and going to work or school. They just want to sleep and eat, and some get profoundly sad. The reason we get like that is because of hormone changes that come from a lack of light. The pineal gland creates more melatonin in dark conditions and that makes us want to sleep more. Of course, sleeping more when you are generally awake leads to being awake more when you are generally asleep. This messes up your whole sleep cycle, which can effect other aspects of your life.
Each year, when our sleep cycles are messed up in this way, my teen-aged children and I stay up late at night and work on artwork, listen to the radio or play music. Sometimes we like to watch scary movies or listen to Coast-to-Coast AM for the creepy, mysterious content. Sometimes we feel more creatively inspired to write music or stories, or to paint, carve or cook. We indulge in this time together with the understanding that when work and school resume, we have to go back to our old, normal schedule. Somehow, the music and stories and artwork make this part of the year more enjoyable for us. We develop a feeling of camaraderie, as we are all in it together.
Other people have their own ways of coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Years ago it was recommended to me that we use full spectrum light bulbs, and some years we do. I think it helps, but it is tough to say. Vitamin D levels are naturally going to be lower this time of the year and it would be a good idea to have yours checked to see if you need a supplement. One thing I always want to do when the mercury drops is bake sweets. I especially want to bake chocolaty things like brownies. The oven heats up the house and the brownies are sweet and rich and smell good. My children and I always feel happier after eating something chocolate. There have been studies to support that chocolate helps with depression, and its fine to indulge cravings once in a while.
I am not saying that sweets are a cure-all, however. Since our activity level is lower, it would be a huge mistake to consistently eat lots of extra calories. Conversely, physical activity can also help improve your mood. On days when it is nice enough to get outside, we take walks in the park or around the track in town. Going swimming at the indoor pool is a nice way to get exercise and it is easy to forget it’s still winter when you are sitting in a hot tub. It is also a good social opportunity, as I always meet people at the pool. If nothing else, it gets us out of the house for a change of scenery. Mall walking is another good physical activity, and it is good for killing cabin fever. You just go to the mall, walk around the whole thing quickly, then after your lap is over, you can go look at stuff that caught your eye. Mall walking is awesome for families with baby strollers and small children, because it is toasty and warm in the mall.
Drinking enough water can be tough in cold weather, as you just don’t get as thirsty. However you lose water through breathing. Where we live in Colorado, it is extra dry this time of the year. This is especially true in the house on the days when it’s very cold and we are running supplemental heaters. I have read that there may be a correlation between depression and dehydration. In addition to drinking water, you may want to run a humidifier because when you are depressed, small discomforts seem of magnified importance. Dry, itchy, cracked skin is unpleasant. Use lip balm and lotion too, just to nurture yourself.
Sometimes starting something new can give you a positive focus that helps you cope. It may be the perfect time to start a new relationship, buy a pet, or scout out a new job. Boredom is the enemy of anyone with winter depression. In the harsh winters of the 1800’s, farmers would spend the extra indoor time working on repairing horse tack, making cheese, carving furniture, and re-weaving caned bottomed chairs. They knew that keeping busy was the key to surviving this time of the year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Trends and Tips
It’s that time of year again. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/two-takes-depression/201110/seasonal… Published on October 6, 2011 by Deborah Serani, Psy.D. in Two Takes on Depression
Chocolate, a Cure for Depression, Study Says Newscorp Australian Papers http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,298696,00.html Oct 1, 2007 (No author listed)
Cold Weather Increases Risk Of Dehydration
UNH Study Gives Insight Into Why We Feel Less Thirsty by Sharon Keelerhttp://www.unh.edu/news/news_releases/2005/january/sk_050128cold.html Jan 2005