By Nina Rouse (former MHANYS Intern)
I was so happy during the Summer yet as early as October hit I was fearful of the shorter days and cold weather to come. Every time Summer ended and daylight savings began I would instantly become physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I would become depressed, tired, and would lose interest in activities that I once loved doing. It would get worse as Winter dragged along and always ended around Springtime. If you’re a person that has also experienced this or think you might be currently experiencing this, you are NOT alone. This strange, yet common mood disorder is known as Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD), or as it is commonly called, Seasonal Depression.
“Have you ever wondered why as soon as the season changes, you begin to feel moody, unhappy, and distant? Seasonal Depression occurs around the same time every year as the season changes and sunlight exposure decreases. Most people experience the “winter blues”, while some are the opposite and experience seasonal depression during the Summer. Seasonal Depression affects many aspects of wellness such as physical, emotional, and mental health.
I have experienced seasonal depression. I didn’t realize until I noticed recurring mood swings. During cold winters my life drastically changed. I became very distant from everything. I felt as if I was in a sunken place and I didn’t know how to get out. My thoughts were all over the place. I felt lonely and sad as if a dark cloud was over my head following me wherever I went. Even when I was surrounded by friends and family I was miserable. Going to class became a struggle. I would have to drag myself to class and after it was over I would quickly return back to my room to be alone. I would sometimes lock myself in there all day.
However, things got better for me. I’m so grateful that my friends were able to sense a change in my attitude. Talking to my friends helped me survive these tough times. They listened and gave me advice and support when needed. Traveling has also helped with getting through the cold winters. I love to travel. Being able to travel to new places, experience new things, and enjoy different weather climates helped to change my mood and decrease my seasonal depression. Unfortunately, traveling is not always the easiest route to limiting seasonal depression. Adapting an old habit or finding a new obsession is my favorite go-to coping mechanism. Joining my school’s dance team allowed me to stay active and busy as I always liked to be. Dancing became my new destressor and has played a tremendous role in changing my life for the better. Going to practices, hanging out with teammates, and performing in front of crowds made me forget about the minor setbacks in my life. I didn’t feel depressed and sad. I felt like myself again; outgoing, energetic, and happy. Although these coping mechanisms worked in my favor, they might not work for you. That is okay. There are other things you could try such as visiting a therapist, using a lightbox device which mimics the light of the sun, increase your vitamin D supplement, or take prescribed medication after consulting with a doctor. These can be beneficial in controlling your seasonal depression but I recommend to figure out what works best for you.
Nowadays, I am doing so much better. I am a lot happier especially when surrounded by family and friends throughout the seasonal changes. Every now and then, I still have my bad days, everyone does. Now that I have my own coping strategies I have been able to control my mood swings and contain my seasonal depression. Finding the support and right people to listen to my problems were hard to discover but exactly the solution I needed to guide me into controlling my seasonal depression. Everyone experiences seasonal depression differently. Your experiences will not be the same as mine and that’s okay. You might not experience the same feelings as I have and that’s okay too. The most important thing is remembering you’re not alone. If I can preserve through seasonal depression then so can you.