Coffee with a Counselor: Episode 1 - Q&A “What’s the best way to fight off the winter blues?”
Happy new year!
We’re kicking 2019 off with a new Facebook live segment called “Coffee with a Counselor” where we're planning on sitting down with you maybe once or twice a week to answer the questions that you have and to help educate you on topics related to mental health, relationships, and any other topics that you're interested in. You’ll be able to find the transcript for our videos as well as additional information in our blog posts!
For our first episode, we answered a question that we got from a post a few weeks back: “What's the best way to fight off the winter blues?”
Before we jump into our five tips, I wanted to talk a little bit about some symptoms that you might be experiencing if you're in a depressive episode, experiencing seasonal affective disorder/depression with a seasonal onset, or if you're just kind of feeling down.
- Increased need for sleep - You might find it really difficult to wake up in the morning and get out of bed
- Increased appetite
- Loss of interest in things that used to bring you pleasure Loss of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Struggles with self-esteem and/or feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts
Remember: While these five tips are meant to help you feel better and give you a little bit of a boost, these do not replace the help of a professional when necessary. If you're feeling stuck in an episode, never hesitate to ask for help. Talk to a professional that is trained in treating depressive symptoms.
So, let's jump into our five tips!
5 Tips to Beat the Winter Blues
1. Get enough sleep.
Our first tip is to make sure you get enough sleep. This is something that I stress with all of my clients and it's something that I stress for my personal health. The Center for Disease Control recommends that the average adult gets seven hours of sleep per night. A general rule of thumb that I go with for clients and for myself is if you're going to get less than seven hours of sleep for one night, to not do that for more than two nights in a row. Sleep is so incredibly important for your brain health and there's a lot of different effects that can happen when you're sleep-deprived. Read more about this here in our blog post on sleep.
Tip number two is to make sure you're getting exercise. The Center for Disease Control recommends that adults get thirty minutes a day, 5 days a week. This doesn't have to be anything extremely strenuous. This can just be a brisk walk. It's even better if you can get outside and breathe some fresh air. Read more about how exercise impacts your mental health here.
3. Do things you enjoy (even when you don’t feel like it)
The third thing that you can do to help fight off the winter blues is to do things that you enjoy even when you don't feel like it. This is a tricky one because I see this frequently with clients when they're struggling with depression: when they start feeling down they stop doing the things that help them feel better. Maybe you have a certain group of people that you hang out with that make you feel better, or you like eating healthy foods, or you have certain hobbies and activities - when you start feeling down you start losing motivation, you start feeling more fatigued, our natural instinct is to back off on some of those things (maybe thinking we will conserve energy and it will make us feel better) and we start picking up some really self-defeating habits. One way that you can make sure that you're fighting off the winter blues is to keep those things that really help boost your mood in place even when you're tired, even when you don't feel like it, even when you don't feel motivated - try to keep doing those things. Try to keep exercising, try to not isolate yourself and withdraw from the people that keep you happy, etc.
4. Take care of your body
Our fourth tip is to take care of your body. This is a big one - making sure that you're getting proper nutrition, making sure that you're drinking plenty of water, and supplementing with vitamins/minerals if you need to. I'm not a physician so this is something that I would always recommend that clients go talk to their physician about. If their physician wants to run any tests, there are a lot of different organic issues (things happening inside your body) that can mimic symptoms of depression or other mental health concerns or exacerbate them (like anemia, thyroid issues, and hormonal imbalances). A physician would be able to help determine if there's anything organic going on and help you supplement with things like vitamin D or iron. It is really common for people in Ohio to be deficient in Vitamin D due to our lack of consistent sunshine and this has a huge psychological impact. You can read more about Vitamin D deficiency here and here.
5. Consider Light Therapy
Our last tip is to consider light therapy. You can order a light therapy box off of Amazon. The one we have in the office is linked here. There’s a lot of research that backs light therapy for a seasonal affective disorder or seasonal onset depression. Learn more about that here and here. * There are some precautions if you're on antidepressant medications and so that's something I would talk to your physician about
If you do feel like you’re stuck in an episode that you're really struggling to get out of and these tips just aren't enough to give you the boost you need you can schedule an appointment with use here
If you have any other questions that you would like us to answer on one of these Coffee with a Counselor episodes or if you have any and topics that you want us to talk about, comment below or private message us and we'll try to get to that as soon as we can!