With changes in the season, here in Mississippi, we see more seasonal depression. We don’t see it as much in Ecuador, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and places where the seasons are consistently warm and sunny all year. Depending on where you live, seasons are very different, and the weather and seasons absolutely can affect our mental and emotional health.
After moving to New York City from the Dominican Republic, I was shocked at the changes in the environment! I remember going to work it was dark, and when I left work, it was dark. It was cumbersome and I was so tired! Everyone feels that shift in the colder, darker months. Sunlight exposure is important. We need light!
Seasonal depression is a real disorder that can be treated. You don’t have to dread the wintertime gloom; you can instead be proactive and feel much better in the winter months. If you look back in time and see you have a pattern every year in which you get gloomy when the season changes, there are things you can do to help!
First, identify if this is something you are dealing with. It is normal to experience sadness when your environment changes. Any kind of change can prompt mental and emotional changes. So, be honest with yourself, possibly a trusted friend, and consider if seasonal depression is something you may be experiencing.
Then get a plan and set your goals. There are actions you can take on your own and you can discuss what you are experiencing with your provider.
- Plan a vacation during the winter to warmer climates. Tourist areas, like Mexico, get a lot of traffic during February and colder months for this reason. People are planning to run away from the cold. Sometimes we can’t leave and must work.
- Get some sun! Bundle up and go for a walk in the sunlight. If you are able to take a 10-minute break during your workday, this will greatly help expose you to sunlight and help balance the stark environment changes. Utilize your weekends or days off work to try to stay in the sun.
- Light therapy is an easy, inexpensive way to get some extra light throughout the day. You can purchase a lamp or lightbulb that provides UV simulation to help in the times we aren’t seeing the sun as much.
- Exercise is a natural mood booster. It helps increase endorphins and happy hormones to help you fight the winter blues.
Vitamin D supplements could also help give you a boost of vitamins that you are not naturally getting from the sun. Talk to your provider to see if this is a good option for you.
By: A. Johanna Lu, MD, ABPN
Psychiatrist, Co-Founder and Medical Director
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