OVERCOMING DEPRESSION: BRIGHTENING THE WINTER BLUES
BY KALI MUNRO, M.Ed., Psychotherapist, 1999
A lot of people get depressed this time of year. The weather turns cold and wet. Autumn colours give way to grey and black. the sun fades, taking our long summer nights with it. Flu and cold season appears, bringing fatigue. Seasonal holidays approach, stirring up all that family baggage we thought we had put to rest last year.
FOR LESBIANS, GAY MEN, AND SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVORS, “FAMILY” HOLIDAYS CAN BE PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT
Let’s face it. This is a season that tends to drag up a lot of old, sad feelings. On top of all this, advertisers and companies really hype up the “perfect happy family” myths this time of year. Is it any wonder that quite apart from everything else that may be going on in our lives, we may feel depressed?
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
- Get some sunshine. Try to spend some more time out in the sun — even a fifteen-minute walk can help. If the lack of sunlight indoors bothers you, you may want to install lighting in your home and workplace that replicates the sun’s rays. Full spectrum bulbs (available at health food stores) or full spectrum fluorescent tubes (available at hardware stores) will do the job. Halogen bulbs are the next best choice
- Have fresh plant-life around you. Purchase some potted plants or fresh flowers, and keep them where you spend the most time.
- Fill the air with smells that lift your spirits. A few drops of bergamot or grapefruit in a diffuser or in a little oil to rub on your body are uplifting.
- Exercise. Any form of movement – stretching, walking, dancing, even jumping jacks – can help you to feel better. Regular and vigorous exercise is the best for alleviating depression.
- Play soothing music whenever you can. Listen to all those old songs that bring you comfort – and find some new ones.
- Take care of your immune system. Take lots of quality Vitamin C, and visit a naturopath or homeopath for remedies that help fend off colds and flu.
- Don’t deny your feelings. It’s important not to deny or exaggerate your depression. When you are depressed, it can help to turn your attention inward and see what comes up. The temptation is to ignore depression by keeping busy, eating, or watching television, but try to be with or pay attention to your feelings. At other times, you’ll want to take a break from them. For help with this, see What to Do With Your Feelings.
- Be aware of and express your feelings. Write out all your feelings. Don’t interpret; just allow the words to flow out of you. Stay with yourself until you’ve written everything you need to express. If writing is hard for you, try talking, painting, drawing, or dancing. The key is to be present with your feelings, find different ways to express them, and let go.
- Notice the pattern. Letting your emotions be there without judgement is very important. In time, you will begin to notice a pattern, not only of what depresses you, but also of how you handle that depression. You’ll notice the pattern of how you relate to yourself — what you tell yourself, believe about yourself, feel about yourself, and do to yourself. You can then evaluate this pattern, that is decide whether or not it helps you. If not, look for ways to change your pattern.
- Accept where you are with compassion. You may be feeling unhappy with your life right now, but that doesn’t make you a failure or a loser. Listen to yourself with openness, and show yourself kindness and understanding. Compassionately accept where you are — the way you would with a friend. It’s amazing how this alone can make the difference in allowing you to move through depression.
While there may not be an easy solution for your depression, by paying attention to what you feel and how you respond to your feelings, you may find that you make some discoveries about yourself which can lead to a shift in mood or perspective. Try to remember that feelings do pass. In the meantime, treat yourself gently.