As the season shifts, many people begin feeling the effects of seasonal depression. Seasonal depression is a condition in which a person experiences either depression or anxiety due to the environmental changes of the season. For many, the most common time for this is the transition from summer to fall. While effects can vary from person to person, those who are in recovery for substance use disorder (SUD) are especially susceptible to its worrisome effects.
Seasonal depression occurs due to the lack of sunlight during certain times of the year. This depletion of sunlight can cause many unwanted effects including fatigue, depression, hopelessness and social withdrawal. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, millions of Americans struggle with seasonal depression. Even though many people are unaware they have this condition, the effects can lead to unwanted weight gain or weight loss, troubled sleeping patterns and even difficulty concentrating.
Juggling Recovery and Seasonal Depression
If you are already struggling with a new lifestyle in addiction recovery, adding seasonal depression on top of that can be incredibly overwhelming. Part of living in recovery means having to feel and process through all your emotions, including the ones that are not so fun. Doing this can be challenging enough for those practicing a sober lifestyle and adding on more intense feelings of depression during the changing of seasons can present additional challenges. If not given and the right tools to work through these symptoms, the temptation to relapse may become increasingly alluring. To avoid this scenario, there are things you can do to work through seasonal depression.
Learning to Cope
There are many tools and strategies that can be used to help cope amid the onslaught of seasonal depression. Some of these are:
- Following a schedule: Following and committing to a set schedule every day has many benefits for mental and physical health. In terms of treating seasonal depression, having a set schedule can help regulate your sleep patterns thus potentially alleviating symptoms of fatigue and depression.
- Exercising regularly: One of the most helpful things you can do to elevate your mood is doing some form of regular exercise. Ideally, this could take place outdoors. However, if the weather does not permit this, indoor exercise is extremely beneficial as well. Not only can it make you feel happy and accomplished, but it can also help you sleep better at night and help regulate weight. Whether it be working out at a gym, running through a park or taking a yoga class, exercising is a powerful tool.
- Getting some sunshine: Getting a substantial amount of natural sunlight each day is necessary for overall well-being and regulating mood. During months of the year when the days are shorter and the weather is colder, being exposed to sunlight becomes rather difficult. However, that does not mean it is impossible to get more sunlight. If it is cold out, wear plenty of layers of warm clothing and take a brief walk outside during the day while the sun is still out.
- Having fun: Do not neglect the importance of engaging in fun activities while sober. Incorporating fun activities regularly can help boost your mood and give you something to look forward to. Some of these activities can include baking, swimming, horseback riding, reading, dancing, playing sports and more. Doing activities that are purely for fun can help you to unwind and experience much-deserved joy.
- Spending time with loved ones: Isolation can be both a cause and symptom of depression. For those with seasonal depression, being in isolation can significantly worsen the effects. By spending time with others who you love and admire, you can boost your mood and satisfaction.
Talking to Your Doctor/Therapist
Even though there are things you can do on your own to try and help subside the effects of seasonal depression, sometimes these may not be enough. While this may be disheartening, know that you have many options available to help you. These include:
- Medication: For some, medication can help regulate their chemical imbalances during this difficult period of time. By going to a doctor or psychiatrist, they can find the right medication to help them get through this temporary disorder.
- Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy can help many people struggling with seasonal depression. Talking with a trained professional can help you to work through these troubling times while also giving you insight into how to cope with those emotions.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This treatment modality is a wonderful option for treating seasonal depression. CBT challenges cognitive distortions and teaches new ways of thinking and behaving. It also helps promote emotional regulation as well as providing coping strategies for living with seasonal depression.
Living in recovery comes with its own challenges. If you are struggling with seasonal depression on top of that, the stress and emotions may become overwhelming. There are many ways to cope with these negative effects to get through it, though. . Seasonal depression is a very troubling condition, and at Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford in New Jersey, we want you to know that help is available, and that you have options. We offer many different treatment modalities including CBT, dialectic behavior therapy, psychotherapy, group therapy and more. To learn more about the ways in which we can help you with the changing of the seasons and finally overcome drugs and alcohol, call us today at (877) 557-5372.