Navigating Seasonal Affective Disorder

‘Tis the Season for the post-holiday blues. What was merry and bright, for many people, now gives way to dark and gray. Perhaps your holiday celebrations were instead a disappointment, and since they have passed, you feel hope slipping in the new year. First, let me assure you that you are not alone. Feeling a little down in January is somewhat normal. January is considered by some to be the most depressing month of the year. Shorter days and colder temperatures keep us indoors and can lead to inactivity and social withdrawal. Decreased daily mental and emotional stimulation from relational contact can lead to a depressed mood. So how do we fare until the sun again warms our surroundings and lifts our moods?

  1. Stay in community. Continue attending church services and bible studies. Share your struggle with other believers and pray together. Make plans to bundle up and do something fun (out to eat, get coffee, join a book club, see a movie, go ice skating, etc.) at least once a week in order to increase relational contact during the dark months.
  2. Keep apprised of your vitamin D levels. Research has shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression.
    1. Visit your primary care physician. Get your blood checked for any vitamin deficiencies and supplement according to your doctor’s orders. Supplements for vitamin D can range from 1,000 to 50,000 units per day, so be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendation for appropriate supplementation.
    2. Purchase a UV lightbulb. Since the sun does not shine as long during the winter months, this is one way to bring the sunshine indoors. The Mayo Clinic recommends “sunning” for a minimum of 30 per day to improve mood.
  3. Keep the season alive by celebrating the small things. Set weekly goals for yourself and celebrate your achievements! Were you able to successfully put away all of your Christmas decorations and gifts? Reward yourself by having some friends over in your reclaimed open space. Did you meet a deadline at work? Celebrate with co-workers out to lunch. 
  4. Get some fresh air. Speaking of bundling up, head out for a walk, jog, or just visit a local park and take in the view of the sound or the mountains for a little while. If you get a long weekend for President’s day, take a day trip into the mountains to play in the snow. 
  5. Keep up your exercise routine. Exercise increases endorphin levels which can help you fight depression. Join a gym, use an exercise video, or find a fun indoor physical activity (i.e. dancing) that will increase your heart rate thus improving your mood.
  6. Make an appointment to see a counselor. As always, a competent therapist can assist you in processing any negative thoughts or behaviors and can help you to develop successful coping strategies for your personality and circumstances. That being said, if you are having any thoughts of suicide or self-harm, contact a doctor or therapist immediately. 

If you have an immediate plan to commit suicide within the next 24 hours, call the hotline at the bottom of this page or go to the nearest Emergency Room immediately.