winter blues 375The darkest months of the year are upon us. Many of us will find it noticeably more difficult to carry out our activities of daily living over the winter months. Our daily rhythms are driven by biological functions called Circadian rhythms. Research suggests that seasonal or winter depression is often a result of an imbalance between your body’s circadian rhythms and rhythms of the environment! Secretions of the hormone melatonin appear to be particularly important in winter depression. This hormone, nicknamed the “Dracula” hormone, is secreted by the brain’s pineal gland when our surroundings are dark, but not when they are light. Most people are able to adjust to these internal changes. For those who struggle with mood changes in the winter, however, the results can feel crushing.

Here are some tips for coping with winter or seasonal depression:

*Get a thorough physical examination and level with your doctor

*Light therapy/phototherapy (exposure to extra amounts of synthetic light throughout the winter; need several hours of exposure to light 5x brighter than a well-lit office daily (talk to your doctor about how to order a phototherapy box)

*Talk to your doctor about altering melatonin levels during the day

*Avoid alcohol. Completely. (Yes, you.)

*Learn about your vulnerabilities and develop ways to manage them

*Strive to exercise regularly

*Do fun things and do them often

*Get and stay connected to others.

*Learn to relax

*Be goal-oriented in important areas

*Prioritize and problem-solve

*Get support, get help. Don’t wait!

Things NOT to do when you’re depressed

*Don’t dwell on the past and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet.

*Don’t compare yourself to others. “You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your daddy was.” (A. Lincoln)

*Don’t catastrophize-understand probability.

*Don’t leave things unsaid or unresolved

*Don’t leave time unstructured

To schedule an appointment with a psychotherapist at St. Luke’s University Health Network call 484-822-5700

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