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Managing seasonal depression

When the season turns to winter, the relative cold and dark of the weather can be a catalyst for many people to experience an increase of depressive thoughts and feelings. We know that sunshine, light and warmth are mood enhancers, and unfortunately the opposite effect can transpire in winter months. Lucklily, there is help available for managing seasonal depression. 

Depressive states are often described as feeling heavy, sad, stuck, hopeless, a feeling of doom or foreboding, or just a general malaise, tiredness and lack of joy in everyday life. 

There is no “quick fix” for depression – seasonal or otherwise. However learning certain important skills to take action on your own behalf will help you to move more quickly out of these states.

Here are a few pointers to help you:

Acknowledge that you are in a state of depression:

Acknowledging to yourself that you are experiencing a state of depression is important. This allows you to remember that the way you are currently experiencing the world (dark and empty) is not the truth of how things are – it is simply how you are currently seeing it through the lens of depression. This is a distorted lens. The lens of depression magnifies the negative view of things and minimises the possibility of anything positive. 

Your thoughts are not telling you the truth while you are in this state – at least not a balanced or reasonable truth. You can observe your thoughts while not becoming tangled up in them or believing them, no matter how convincing a story your mind gives you. Be the witness of your experience, don’t be fully identified with it. Remember you are not seeing things clearly right now. Remember that depression is distorting your perception. Hypnotherapy can help you with this. 

Everything changes:

Depression doesn’t last forever. It will lift if you stay the course and learn to take reasonable action. Notice that even in your most depressed times it is an experience that waxes and wanes. You have some days that are brighter than others, some hours that you probably feel reasonably ok. Remind yourself of this. The old saying “This too shall pass”, is an effective counter to depression’s assertion that “nothing will ever change.” Hold on to the thought that everything changes and this will too, especially if your depression is seasonal. You can influence the way that you feel by the way you respond to your thoughts and feelings, and whether or not you are able to take action on your own behalf. You are not a victim. You have agency. You can learn to take some action in spite of the way that you feel. 

How do you take action?

Taking action to do the things that you know are good for you can be difficult when in the throws of depression, because motivation can be very low. Your body is generally tired and your mind tells you “why bother, I don’t care, nothing will make a difference.” Here is where you need to realise that your thoughts are not helping you, and will in fact prolong your depression if you are not able to challenge them. Not taking any action on your own behalf will exacerbate the feeling of being stuck and feeling hopeless and powerless.

The way to take action while in a state of depression is to start very small. A good place to start is physical exercise. All the research backs up the positive correlation between exercise and mood enhancement. So move your body in some way. Any way. If all you can manage is a 5 minute walk around the block, then do that. Do it each day, until you can walk for 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, then 30 minutes. Build up gradually, but be consistent. Just do something. It will remind you that you are not powerless. You do have the ability to take action to affect the trajectory of your life. 

Create some momentum and see if you can build on it. Remember to acknowledge yourself and congratulate yourself on taking any action to move you in the direction of feeling better. If you can work up to vigorous exercise (safely) elevating your heart rate, you’ll benefit from feel-good chemicals flooding your brain.

If you are already exercising and still don’t feel any better, consider making a different change. Look at your diet and see if there are changes that you can make in the way you are eating to increase the nutritional content of your food. Again, start small but aim for consistency. If you are still drinking alcohol consider reducing or quitting altogether. (Getting professional help with this is a good idea, especially if you are struggling with motivation and consistency.)

Resist the urge to isolate yourself:

Experiencing a dark or low mood can make it difficult to socialise. Depression affects your energy, confidence and self esteem. However resist the urge to isolate yourself completely or stay inside the confines of your home, as this can make your world increasingly small. Can you spend some relaxing time in nature? Can you go for a coffee with a friend or family member? Can you visit an art gallery? Can you swim in the ocean? There are things you can do and places you can go that are spacious and quiet. Step out of your comfort zone in a manageable way. Wherever possible, turn the screens off and be present to the world around you. Nature is a great panacea. 

Examine your life circumstances:

If your depression is more than seasonal, you may need to do some deeper excavation of potential causes. Are your life circumstances negatively affecting you? Is your relationship toxic? Are you under appreciated in your work environment? Do you live in a way that accords with your values? Are you lonely and bored with life? Do you have unresolved childhood trauma? Do you feel empowered to change your life?

Get really honest with yourself and evaluate your life circumstances as best you can. It may become clear that you need to overhaul some or many areas of your life to increase your chances of living a fulfilling and happy life. 

Find professional help:

If you have tried to help yourself, but you feel you need support and guidance to make meaningful change, you may need the help of a mental health professional. Hypnotherapy can help you change your unconscious thought patterns and belief systems, and help you increase your motivation to take action. Together we can help you create a more positive and uplifting expectation of the future. 

If you would like to learn more about how hypnotherapy can help with managing seasonal depression, please reach out to me.

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