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If your brain is anything like my brain, this time of year stacks seasonal depression on top of already existing depression, and being productive is like trying to swim through honey. Despite my desire to whip out new projects and stay on top of the daily things like grocery trips, keeping the apartment clean, and trying not to let myself get too isolated, sometimes it feels like it’s all I can do in a day to just…exist, you know?

Simply existing feels so hard when those heavy weights of depression AND seasonal depression pile onto our shoulders, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. In learning how to cope with my more intense depressive episodes, I learned some helpful coping methods that get me through the season, and maybe they can help you, too.

Be Gentle with Yourself

My brain is an absolute bully when I’m going through those depressive episodes, and for no good reason. Any time those irrational thoughts of having no friends, no future, and no hope for anything good to come out of my life, I feel the need to entertain them. It’s weird how easy it becomes to believe those thoughts, but simply telling them “no, that’s not true” is way more powerful than you can imagine. These intrusive, depressive thoughts may pay a visit, but that doesn’t mean you have to ask them to stay.

I remember a night just recently where I was deep into a depressive episode. My brain was telling me no one liked me, I wasn’t going to be successful, and that that it would be like this forever. I just didn’t have the energy to fully rationalize why that wasn’t true, because applying logic to your depressive and/or anxious thoughts can honestly be more exhausting than it needs to be. So instead, I just tried to tell myself “no, that’s not correct” when my brain went off with negative, self-destructive thoughts. Instead of joining in the bullying my own brain was doing, I just had to stay stoic in recognizing that they were just depressed thoughts.

And guess what? The next day, I was much, much better. Maybe there wasn’t any sort of correlation, but considering that wasn’t the first night I went through something similar, and both times I noticed a significant improvement the next day, I’m inclined to believe it had at least enough of an impact to consider.

Try to get a walk in, or some sort of regular physical activity

I do moderate workouts about 5-6 times per week for about 30 minutes, and I always notice my mood and energy levels staying elevated throughout the day, especially if I work out in the morning. It may not always last the whole day, and if I can manage it, getting a nice evening walk in can help tide me over until bedtime, but overall, I notice my days go MUCH better when I work out in the morning.

Getting my body moving boosts my mood, gives me a nice surge of energy, and even lowers my anxiety for a good amount of time. I know getting into a routine of taking walks or getting some sort of physical activity in when you don’t already have those habits in place is tough. Heck, I still have some days where I barter with myself on whether I’m going to do my workouts when I say I will, or push them off until later. It’s not always fun while actually doing the workout, but the feeling I get afterward (despite how disgustingly sweaty I get) always feels worth it.

Think about Light Therapy

Now this one took me a bit to get into, but it turns out, light therapy is a real thing, and it has worked wonders for me this season.

If you’re able to get out on at least a 30 minute morning/afternoon walk, this step may already be taken care of for you, but if getting some sunlight into your eyes isn’t already party of your routine, whether it’s taking care of kids, your work schedule, etc., having a light therapy lamp radiating on your face while you do what you need to do can help keep your mood stable throughout the day.

This is the one I bought, and I’m absolutely thrilled about how much it’s helped me:

Now I paid quite a bit for this one, for a couple of reasons:

  • If it was going to be a core part of my mental health care, I wanted it to look nice, so I’d be excited about using it
  • It made a nice, functional centerpiece for my coffee table

That being said, you absolutely don’t have to pay this much for a light therapy lamp! There are several that are under $60 that are portable, wireless, and could fit your lifestyle. What I’m getting at with my purchase specifically is that it made me more excited to use it because it looked nice, and became a nice aesthetic piece for me to see every day. No matter which one you choose, I personally feel like what’s important is that you’re excited to try it, because let me tell you, yet again, I am very pleased with this purchase. I definitely feel my mood dip later in the day when I don’t get a chance to use it.

Try reaching out to at least one friend a day

Now this is a reminder for me just as much as it’s a reminder for you. I know how sinister depression is, and I know how it likes to isolate us. Sometimes it feels like I’m looking up at a mountain, where at the peak is a bottle of pure serotonin, but a very convincing voice is telling me how much nicer it would be to just sit where I am, for fear that it’s going to be too hard to get up there, anyway.

It’s easy to feel like this means you are “lazy,” but I want you to hear this, because I wish someone would have told me this earlier in life: you are not lazy. It’s difficult to try “hard enough” when your brain makes very convincing arguments that trying harder is hopeless.

That being said, if you can suspend those thoughts for a minute, or even just the time it takes to send a quick text message, or start a phone call with a friend that supports you, it can sometimes be enough to give you a little visibility through that depressive fog. Like I said, I know it’s not easy. I have been in plenty of depressive ruts where I’m convinced no one wants to talk to me for absolutely no logical reason. But if you can somehow muster up the energy to block out those intrusive thoughts and have a chat with a friend, you just might feel a little less isolated.

These are things I noticed have helped me when the seasonal depression piles its weight on top of my already existing depression. It’s not always easy to turn these steps into a routine, but with a lot of practice, I’ve been getting better at recognizing when my thoughts and feelings are stemming from depression, and these practices have definitely helped stabilize my mood on days where it’s in the dumps.

Ultimately, what I hope you’ll remember is to be kind to yourself. It’s already too easy to feel like we’re not doing enough because of our mental health, so there’s no reason to make things harder on ourselves by beating ourselves up about our brains not working the way they should.

You are stronger and more capable than you feel, and you are important to so many people. The best you can do for yourself is treat yourself with that same kindness.

2 responses to “How I Cope with Seasonal Depression (AKA: Seasonal Affective Disorder)”

  1. My initials are SAD too, and maybe that’s why I sometimes feel susceptible to SAD. Exercise has been a panacea though—any physical activity is always good. Anyway, thanks for this post and for sharing your great tips, Jeff!

    1. Oh no, the initials being SAD feed like an insidious coincidence!

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