Pay attention to your mental health this winter! There’s a perfect storm brewing for depression!
COVID-19 has tripled the rate of depression in U.S. adults in all demographic groups, according to a study by JAMA. Now add in people not being able to spend the holidays with their loved ones plus SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a type of depression that spikes in the winter months when there is less daylight, and unfortunately you have the perfect storm for depression.
The good news is there are plenty of ways to cope with depression.
- Increase social interaction safely: Human beings need social interaction, and this can be done safely. Text with your friends and family and call them often. Facetime with the people closest to you. Get together in a safe fashion by sitting on opposite sides of the driveway and wear your masks. Pickup the phone and talk to a coworker just as you would walk into her office.
- Get more light: The winter means shorter days and the lack of sunshine can make some people depressed. When the weather permits, make sure and spend some time outside. Keep window coverings open and allow enough natural light to get inside. In more severe cases, talk to your doctor about light box therapy. This small box emits light similar to outdoor sunlight that can help increase chemicals in the brain that relieve depression.
- Do things that make you feel good: Make sure and carve out at least 30 minutes each day to focus on yourself. This is your time to do whatever you want and whatever makes you feel good. You can go for a run, sit on a park bench and people watch, listen to music you like, meditate, take a bath, talk to friends or whatever it is you enjoy.
- Exercise: Exercise is important for so many reasons, but especially if you are suffering with depression. Exercise is the best natural way to feel better. Even just 20 minutes of increased physical activity each day can make a significant difference in how you feel. At the very least, go for a brisk walk.
- Proper diet and sleep: Taking care of your immune system through a nutrient-dense diet is imperative during the cold seasons. You should prioritize foods high in antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamin b12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon and chicken are excellent sources of lean proteins that provide energy and can boost mood. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies as well as oatmeal and certain fortified cereals, along with walnuts and sunflower seeds, which contain folic acid and can lead to an increase of serotonin in the brain. Make sure you get enough sleep each night. This is all very important to boosting your mood.
- Talk to your doctor: If your depression is really getting out of control, it’s time to talk to your doctor. There are many different therapies, medications and natural alternatives that can help you feel better. Remember, there is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. Mental health is just as important and should be taken as seriously as your physical health.
During the holiday season, many people find the holiday cheer helps them cope with depression. Taking a few minutes for you during the course of the day can be beneficial. Do something you enjoy, such as taking a walk or reading a book.
Source: Vinay Saranga M.D., a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry