Don't Be SAD: Beat the Winter Blues

Are you secretly dreading the unstoppable slide into the fall and winter months? Do you have a history of struggling with the "winter blues"? While not an epidemic, you're certainly not alone in this battle, and there are positive steps you can take to help your overall mood.

This sense of falling or depressive mood associated with the fall and winter months is known by the mental health community as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's said to afflict an estimated four to six percent of the population with some level of clinical depression, while another ten to twenty percent may experience milder symptoms. 

Research suggests that the disorder is much more common in northern states, where the days are shorter, and people are exposed to much less sunlight during this time of year. Still, other factors appear to influence its occurrence, making it possible for folks living in southern states to struggle with SAD, as well. Light therapy has shown to be an effective treatment.

You can access an article from the American Family Physician for more information, HERE.

As with all apparent mood disorders, education leading to action steps on the part of the sufferer are key to experiencing relief from symptoms. These steps should address both physical and emotional/spiritual aspects of the disorder.

Of first importance, let me encourage you to not ignore how you may be feeling or thinking. Be sure to talk to your physician if you're experiencing significant physical symptoms, or get help immediately if you're struggling with suicidal thoughts.

As Christians, we must recognize that how we think in times of suffering is critically important. Our thought processes will affect not only how we view the struggle, but how we address it. Here are some simple action steps that you can take if you find yourself struggling with low mood or depression this Holiday season:
  1. Keep a daily journal of your activities, along with information concerning your particular struggles. Be specific about your anxieties and fears, and seek Bible passages that may speak to them. Pray these passages over your struggle, and ask the Spirit to help you in this time. Trust in His promises, that God is both good, and good to you. Make sure to document successes or victories, and turn back to them in times of distress as reminders of God's faithfulness to you.
  2. One of the common threads involved with depression and anxiety is our tendency to overestimate the perceived trouble, and to underestimate the help available to us. Make a detailed list of the actual threats you perceive, and honestly assess them. Do the same with your available help. Consider all of the potential resources God has placed in your life for help of all types. Make any necessary connections.
  3. Do a Bible study of biblical characters who faced various difficulties. Consider their humanness in the midst of suffering, and look for the ways in which God was faithful to deliver them either from or through their storm. Consider the ways in which God has delivered you through similar or past difficulties, and pray expectantly for God's good and sovereign will to have its way in your life.
  4. Resist any temptations to turn-inward during times of depressive thinking. Remember that God has created you to be a relational being. Now is not the time to disconnect from relationships, but to stay or get connect. Involve yourself in church life, small groups, hobbies, etc. The point is, depression will tempt you to inactivity, and that inactivity will be sure to worsen your symptoms.
  5. Do not cave to the cultural demands of the season. God is not judging you based upon your adherence to societal measures, or the latest postings on social media that suggest how your life must appear. Remember, the pictures of "perfect people" and "perfect families" are not your bullseye during this time of year. Instead, learning to walk as Jesus walked is the proper pursuit of our hearts (1 John 2:6).
  6. Finally, be honest with someone you can trust about how your feeling. Seek wise counsel, and medical help if necessary. Ask a friend to call you regularly, and to hold you accountable to make wise choices during this difficult time. Agree ahead of time to follow their lead, even if you don't particularly feel like it.
These are very general principles and action steps to consider if you might be suffering from SAD or related symptoms. The details of your specific case will affect how you might actually address your suffering. I would encourage you to get help if you think you may be struggling with low mood during the holiday season. Remember, suffering is a part of our human experience, but hope and help are always available. 

If I can be of any service to you at Baylight Counseling, please don't hesitate to contact me. It would be my pleasure to walk with you during this time, and to help you focus your eyes on Christ, who is our hope.

Have you experienced the "winter blues"? Let me know, and tell me what you've found to be most helpful.