Seasonal blues can crop up at this time of year, making the holidays a little less jolly for some people.
With 2020 being an extremely stressful and challenging year thanks to COVID, a taxing election, racial tension and other events, more people may not feel quite like themselves right now.
Seasonal blues, or sometimes referred to as “holiday blues,” is a type of depression that is related to the change in weather and begins around the same time every year, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms typically begin in the fall and continue through the winter months.
“Sometimes we can dismiss anxiety and silly little things that aren’t ever going to happen, but COVID almost gave us an excuse to feel anxious all of the time because it’s a very real possibility,” Rachel Slick, a licensed clinical social worker with UCHealth Behavioral Health said. “Seasonal blues look really similar to depression. But holiday and the pandemic blues are more fleeting, more of a temporary depression.”
Seasonal depression is quite common, according to online medical magazine “Healthline.” Around 14% of Americans experience “winter” or seasonal blues.
Some symptoms of seasonal blues can include:
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Losing interest in things that used to bring you joy
- Having trouble concentrating
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
So how can you tell if you are experiencing seasonal blues or if it might be something more?
“When it turns into something that impairs functioning, that’s our threshold where we would diagnose or treat something,” Slick explained. “When it starts to get into the way of activities of daily life like interacting with other people, going to work and things like that.”
Acknowledging that you’re not feeling like your normal self and not beating yourself up over it is the first step to dealing with seasonal depression, Slick said.
“Then it’s doing small things like eating enough, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, moving your body in some way — the really boring basics — is what we can do to help with seasonal depression,” she said. “Right now there’s nothing on the calendar to plan for, no concerts, no parties, no get togethers, so we have to make our own. Schedule Zoom calls with friends and family members and put it on the calendar. This way you have something to look forward to.”
During the holidays, maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge.
“Just acknowledge that we tend to overindulge and give yourself permission to enjoy something but set limits on it,” Slick said. “Once you get restrictive with it, we will break the rules so moderation is key.”
Outsmart yourself by using online grocery shopping options like Walmart’s Pick and Click, so that you aren’t tempted by tasty treats while cruising the food aisles.
“You have to manually add it to your virtual cart and look at it,” Slick said. “So you are less likely to make impulsive decisions.”
Some other tips to help beat seasonal depression are:
- Learn to say “no” to people, activities or events that you really don’t want to do.
- Avoid overscheduling yourself.
- Be open to new traditions.
- Avoid overeating and drinking too much.
- Do something fun like checking out holiday light displays or taking a drive into the mountains.
- Take time to do something for yourself such as reading a book, soaking in the tub or taking a nap.
- Do something good for someone else like volunteering at a food bank or toy drive.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor. Treatment for seasonal depression can vary depending on the patient but can include talk therapy, medication or light therapy.
“Your primary care provider is familiar with you and they can help guide you to see if this is developmentally normal stuff or do you need to move to a higher level of care,” Slick explained. “They can refer you to a behavioral health counselor for further treatment.”
In addition to primary care providers, online counseling sites like TalkSpace and BetterHelp are also great options for talking about your feelings and determining if you have seasonal depression or some other condition. The sites allow clients to talk with counselors through virtual meetings, texting or phone calls.
“Even if you are not diagnosed with something and sent for treatment, you are going to get some helpful tips and tricks to take with you and try out,” Slick said.