Do you feel sadder in the winter months?
It took me years to understand why I felt that way, and to be honest, when I talk about it, many people do not understand.
It is more than just the winter blues or a weird funk that you have to snap out of. It is something that I have to be mindful of for the entire year, so I am ready for it when it inevitably happens.
Seasonal depression, which is actually seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that is related to the changes in the season. The symptoms of SAD start in the fall and continue through the whole winter. And the winters are brutal in the Midwest.
It makes me moody and it seems to take all my energy away. It is a desperate cry for the spring and summertime. The sadness does slowly fade away when days get sunnier.
You may think that I am bored or lazy in winter, but it is much more than that.
I start to lose interest in things that I normally enjoy. I feel more tired, but I have trouble sleeping. I feel slow, and that agitates me. I want to eat more while I try to stay healthy. I have a hard time focusing. And the worst part is that I just feel hopeless, unworthy, and guilty—and most of the time, I don’t know why.
Those who do not get as affected by the changing seasons will not understand how I feel, but this is how it is.
There are treatments for SAD out there, including medications and psychotherapy. I read how light therapy helps too, so I got myself a ‘happy lamp.’ I would like to believe it works. It sits with me every day.
During these times, it takes more effort to do things that are easier on the warmer days. I get quieter and I tend to stay in more when I know interacting with others is more helpful.
No one really knows for sure why people feel down during the gloomier months, but it is said many factors affect this feeling. The decreased sunlight could disrupt the body’s internal clock because no one likes it when it gets dark at 4 p.m.
Perhaps it is the drop in serotonin caused by reduced sunlight that makes me sad or the change in my sleeping pattern that affects the melatonin levels. It could be one or it could be a combination of it all.
I have always been used to winters, but the first time I felt down during the colder months was in Chicago because it was so rare to see the sun. I never felt so down when I was in Nepal during winters because it’s still sunny in Nepal all winter. I didn’t realize that till much later.
The power of the sun on our moods is incredible.
What has helped me with seasonal depression is the awareness that it is the season that causes it, so when I feel down, I understand why but I still need help. I have no motivation to exercise in the cooler months, but I make myself exercise because I know it always makes me feel better.
We know regular exercise helps increase the serotonin levels in your brain that naturally boosts your mood, and it helps immensely in my overall sense of well-being. I make sure to do a little yoga and bike for 30 minutes every day for my mental health.
So, the next time you think I am being quiet, it’s not because of you but it’s because of my seasonal depression in the winter. It visits me when I am in gloomy places in the colder months and tends to leave when it gets warmer. Seasonal depression zaps a lot of my energy, so I am constantly trying to find ways to be better.
Please be patient and try to understand that I may seem antisocial during the darker days, but it is because I am struggling. I am trying my best to take care of myself.
I am waiting for the sunny days to arrive.