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Three Ways to Manage Depression During Winter

You may not realize it, but seasonal changes can impact both physical and mental health . As the temperature starts to drop and there is less natural sunlight, we are at risk of getting not only the flu, but also seasonal affective disorder – or SAD – a type of depression.

SAD, more commonly referred to as seasonal depression, is depression that strikes during the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight and lifts during the spring and summer months. People with SAD are more likely to experience the following symptoms of depression: lack of energy, sleeping too much, weight gain and a craving for carbohydrates.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, SAD affects about 5 percent of adults in the United States and typically lasts 40 percent of the year. Although it may sound long-lasting, there are self-care and other support strategies that can be used to manage depressive symptoms during the colder months.

Use these self-care strategies from the MHFA curriculum to take care of your mental health this winter.

  1. Exercise. Exercise releases chemicals in our brain that make us feel better. Try incorporating aerobic (jogging or brisk walking) and anaerobic (weight training) exercise into your routine to help manage symptoms.
  2. Light therapy. For some people, increased exposure to light can improve symptoms of SAD. Light therapy involves exposing the eyes first thing in the morning to bright, full-spectrum light that mimics natural outdoor light during winter months.
  3. Relaxation Training. Focusing on tensing and relaxing muscle groups can help you relax voluntarily and reduce depression. There are guided relaxation training techniques available online, including from Children’s Mercy Hospital.

The winter months can feel long and difficult. Take time for yourself and your mental health every day. Incorporating these self-care strategies can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

It’s also important to know how to help someone else who might be facing depression. Learn more about how you can #BeTheDifference for yourself and others with Mental Health First Aid.