Overcoming Seasonal Depression

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on December 20, 2022 # Lifestyle

Kristin BealeWinter is coming! That means the holidays are near, families will come together, and we can justify trading in our professional-looking sweaters/collared shirts for chunky, hooded sweatshirts. Or, shoutout to my friends who work from home and never had to adapt.

Winter has a few perks, but more on my mind is the days getting darker and shorter; the weather colder, and seasonal depression climbing back into the driver’s seat and strapping in – at least until March.

There are a few theories around why SAD, an ironic abbreviation for seasonal affective disorder, comes for so many of us (~10 million Americans) when the temperature drops every year. Experts aren’t certain, but some think that seasonal changes disrupt our circadian rhythm, while others agree that seasonal change messes with our serotonin and melatonin hormones.

Whatever the reason, seasonal depression is debilitating and can feel out of our control. With some effort, though, there are ways to mitigate its effects and even ward it off.

  1. Lighten up. A big part of the treatment for seasonal depression is light therapy. That might sound silly, but consider its purpose: to mimic outdoor light, which causes a chemical change in your brain that’ll lift your mood and ease SAD’s symptoms. Consider buying a light therapy lamp and devoting 20 to 30 minutes to sitting with it every day.
  2. Sleep it off. Some people claim to “only need 6-7 hours of sleep per night,” but that’s just naïve. Maybe those people can function on that compromise, but can they thrive? Nope. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep and keeping a consistent schedule is important for your productivity, alertness, your brain’s processing, and for fighting off seasonal depression.
  3. Get movin’. Do something to increase your heart rate every day – whether it’s a walk/roll around your neighborhood, sitting at the edge of your desk chair to challenge your core, or push-ups in your living room. Consider getting a tracker (I recommend Fitbit) and make it fun! Exercise doesn’t have to be hard.
  4. Do something productive. That could look like a new hobby, working on a project you’ve procrastinated, or learning a new recipe. Last winter I needle-felted a raccoon, and I finished a book I’ve been working on (coming out next month!), but we’re still waiting for me to cook something that turns out edible. Maybe I’ll try again this winter (or maybe not).
  5. Make the best of it. I know some people just prefer cold weather. I don’t understand those people, but I’m thankful for all kinds. I don’t like it, but instead of focusing on all the things I can’t do in winter (ride my bike, wear a dress, be comfortable outside my house), I’m focusing on the good stuff: hot tea is better in the winter, I have sweatshirts I like to wear, the air is cleaner, and the snow is fun to play in – if you like that kind of thing. I don’t, but it’s good for people that do. My miseries around cold weather won’t change anything, so why not look on the sunny (ha!) side?

Seasonal depression isn’t as rare as it may feel and doesn’t have to be so isolating. If you experience signs of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for more than two weeks and some (above) lifestyle changes don’t help alleviate your symptoms, consider reaching out to your doctor or mental health specialist. It can be tempting to write off sadness with “I’ll feel better when it warms up,” but depression is a serious condition. Take care of yourself, then sit tight. Spring will be here before you know it.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.