Today is World Mental Health Day and we’re also about a month away from the start of winter, meaning the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. Around this time we often see a spike in what is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to changes in seasons which begins and ends at about the same time each year.
We spoke with Hillary Schoninger, LCSW, an individual and family psychotherapist, to help spark insight as to how to deal with the cycle of downs.
Think preventively about getting your sun exposure.
“The sun does shine every day and although winter makes it harder to find, you can. Look ahead at the weather forecast and discover what time of day the sun will be brightest and warmest and then commit to getting outside during that time frame.”
Make a vision board.
“A representation of things you associate with warmth and sun will help keep you connected to that environment. Once you have created your vision board, you can put it somewhere noticeable, so it is a part of your day.”
Double down on your self-care.
“If a large part of your self-care depends on the sun, be realistic and find other methods of self-care during the winter, to nurture yourself. Once you find what works, commit to practicing it consistently.”
Plan a trip. Plan a vacation geared towards sun exposure to nurture your mental health. Commit to being outside as much as feels good when you get there. Having sun to look forward to can make the coldest day seem more tolerable.
“Open up about your SAD symptoms, and see if any of your other friends are also sensitive. Support is not only helpful but validating. You are not alone with your SAD symptoms; Support will only reinforce this.”
Adopt an ASAP mindset.
“Be “As Social As Possible.” Depression, one of the most prominent symptoms of SAD, can be combatted when we are social and in the community. When you are being social, you are counteracting the depressive elements of SAD, while finding a healthy outlet to cope with winter.”