End of Daylight Saving and Start of Seasonal Depression?
You may have noticed a dip in your mood this week with the end of daylight saving. The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and the darkness comes earlier.
This seasonal shift especially impacts those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can impact anyone, including those with preexisting depression, anxiety, and even those without a diagnosed mental health condition. This chart summarizes common seasonal depression symptoms with marked similarities and differences with major depression.
PLEASE is a helpful acronym of various coping skills (Linehan, 2015) to practice when we are emotionally vulnerable (e.g., going through a depressive episode). It is likely you have heard of these suggestions before; consistently practicing them may help you manage your baseline mood.
Treat PhysicaL illness
Your physical health is directly related to your emotional health and vice versa
When you are sick/in pain, you can be more sensitive, and your emotions may be felt more intensely
It is ok to ask for help, which may include visiting your doctor and/or taking medications
Eat a balanced diet
With seasonal depression, you may have an increased appetite and crave carbs
Overeating can result in feeling physically bloated and emotionally guilty
Sometimes, you can forget to eat or work through your lunch, and then eat too much because you are too hungry
You may need to plan ahead like cooking beforehand or setting an alarm to remind you to take a lunch break to ensure you are eating regularly
Avoid mood-altering substances (keep in mind alcohol in reasonable quantities in safe settings is usually not an issue)
With the holidays coming up, some of you may feel like you need some ‘liquid courage’ to deal with family and socializing
Alcohol is actually a depressant that impacts your brain and body (that’s why it helps you to feel more relaxed and less anxious) but can worsen depressive symptoms
If you are noticing a reliance on alcohol as a form of coping, it can be helpful to develop healthy skills to help and not worsen your depression (e.g., setting boundaries with family)
Having enough sleep is important when you are experiencing symptoms of depression
It is important to know what your ideal sleep hours are and not oversleep as this can cause you to feel more tired
Not getting enough sleep can also make you feel grumpy and/or irritable
Because it can be colder this time of year combined with seasonal depression, you may stay indoors more
Going outside for some sunlight, especially in the morning, can help with your mood and sleep rhythm
Exercise can also help with the release of chemicals in your brain that boosts your mood and reduces your perception of pain
When you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, and/or are emotionally suffering, you may need specific skills to help feel a bit better. A helpful place to start is at the foundation to ensure your basic needs are met. Feel free to read our past blogs to learn more about depression. Struggling with seasonal depression is not your fault; it is likely due to a combination of biology, genetics, stress, loss, and painful experiences. If you are interested in reaching out to us for mental health support to see if we are a good fit to be part of your care team, you can reach out to us here.
Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual. The Guilford Press.
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Written by Susanna La, Ph.D.
Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D.