It’s the beginning of November and to be quite frank, seasonal depression has hit me hard.
I’m not sure what it is about this time of year that always gets me down. As much as I love cold and rainy days, they affect me in a more negative way than my conscious mind chooses to admit. As soon as the weather begins to change, I lose all sense of self, and it stuns me year after year. Suddenly as the temperature drops, I lose motivation, I get bored of life, and I want nothing more than to lie in bed and hide away.
To be honest, feeling this way during what is often labeled “the most wonderful time of the year” never gets much easier, and there are some days I feel like I absolutely cannot leave the house. The one thing I have recently begun to try and to do for myself, though, is to stay busy and motivated even while I am stuck in “hibernation mode.” I try to take the time I spend feeling down to evaluate what I wish was different about my life, and even creating a list of this sort helps me feel better and look forward to what’s next.
Seasonal depression sucks; it is isolating, mind-numbing and utterly exhausting. But if there is one thing I’ve learned over time, it is that sometimes what you need is a bit of healthy and productive distraction. And what better way to deal with changing seasons than to make a few changes in my own life?
Here are a few of the ways I try to cope with the cold months.
1. Make a health evaluation
This is a vital time of year for checking in on both your mental and physical health. Start here.
In terms of mental health, be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling and do what you need to do in order to heal. For me, that means being willing to openly and candidly discuss depression with the people I care about, finding healthy outlets for my emotions, and doing things that make me happy. If you need to seek help, don’t be afraid to do so. It’s often difficult and anxiety-inducing, but once you finally begin to feel stable, you will be so glad you sought out the assistance you needed.
I also try to keep up with what I’m putting into my body during this time of year—another thing that affects me more than I (and my love for desserts) often care to admit. We’ve all heard it a million times before, but it bears repeating: health really is all about balance. Do your best to eat well, drink a lot of water and take care of yourself, but also remember that it is the holiday season and that you should never feel guilty about a bit of indulgence with friends and family. I, for one, will not be giving up my second or third plates at Thanksgiving dinner—this one is non-negotiable.
2. Find an outlet
One of the most important things I do to deal with depression—not only during the winter months but throughout the year—is keeping sketchbooks and journals where I can let everything out. When I find myself in a place where I’m not sure who to turn to, having a private space to release all of my thoughts, no matter how sad or wild or happy or scared they are, is one of the most cathartic things I do for myself.
Writing and drawing help me think things through in a way that is simultaneously emotional, logical, and visual, and manifesting those emotions into the physical form of a journal or sketchbook is incredibly relieving. I find that this tip is often paired nicely with a big cup of tea, or maybe an entire pint of ice cream, or a good dramatic cry, or perhaps all three, depending on what suits me best in the moment.
3. Make an appearance change-up
Sometimes a little mix-up goes a long way. The transition into the latter part of the year is my favorite time to change up the way I look. Whether it be in the form of a wardrobe cleanout, a new hairstyle, or a different makeup routine, I always find that a fresh look brings with it a fresh perspective on life. To some, it may sound superficial, but there is truth in the idea that the way we look has a large effect on the way we feel about ourselves. Experimentation is a great way to find new things that work for you and to revive your sense of self-love, and showing off a new appearance will get you excited and motivated to stay out and about.
4. Make lists and check them off
For me, to-do lists are about more than just keeping track of all I need to do. The simple act of marking a task “complete” not only relieves stress by assuring me that I am getting things done, but it also gives me a great sense of accomplishment, no matter how small or trivial some tasks may seem.
Furthermore, by placing things like “wash your sheets” and “send out meeting email” together on the same list, you can (a) think about both the personal and practical tasks you need to complete and (b) give tasks an emotional weight of equal importance, despite one taking more time/effort than another.
(Disclaimer: Now obviously, time-sensitive list items like finishing a work/school project should sometimes gain priority over other things, but if time isn’t an object, you need to procrastinate productively, or you just need a little boost, I do find this tip to be more helpful than you might expect!)
5. Start new projects, try new things
You don’t have to wait for the New Year to start new projects! Working on goals you’ve been keeping on the shelf can give you a sense of accomplishment and a much-needed forward-thinking attitude. For example, I recently decided to pick back up on learning Japanese, something I care about, actively want to pursue and can always get excited about.
Alternatively, try new things! Whether it is listening to new music, watching movies or TV shows you’ve always wanted to see, or learning a new skill, setting time aside to try something new is a great way to get pumped about life again, even in the dead of winter.
Seasonal depression is never easy or fun to deal with, and I’m always looking for more ideas on how to work through it. Let me know below if you have any more tips—they really are appreciated!