It’s natural to fall into a slight funk this time of year. The winter blues affect many people; in fact, an estimated 25 percent of people admit to feeling a bit down in the period between the holidays and spring. From returning back to work after a long-anticipated break and post-holiday financial stress to difficulty maintaining a New Year’s resolution and adjusting to cold, dark weather, many people feel extra gloomy and tired.
Further, about 11 million Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a more serious condition that may cause people to feel lethargic and moody. SAD is a type of depression that typically affects people during the fall and winter.
While these conditions affect many people, there are things you can do to help relieve some of the symptoms of seasonal depression:
- Get more sunlight: Getting a boost of sunlight and vitamin D by taking a walk outside can help counteract some of the gloom people experience in winter. For those experiencing the more severe form of the winter doldrums, SAD, your provider may recommend light therapy. This treatment exposes you to periods of bright light via a special light box, potentially causing a shift in brain chemicals that could lift your mood.
- Exercise more often: Many people tend to hibernate in winter and exercise less than they do when it’s warmer, but this can exacerbate symptoms of the winter blues. Hiking, skiing or trying a new class at the gym can all help improve mood, and it might even contribute to your New Year’s resolution at the same time.
- Improve your nutrition: Studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables were less likely to experience depression and other related conditions. Further, the winter blues can send many people straight for comforting foods that may not be the best for us. By making an effort to incorporate more produce into your diet, you can help counteract both the symptoms of these conditions and help avoid potential weight gain that can result.
- Make a plan: One reason many people feel down this time of year is that they may not have much to look forward to now that the holidays are over. Plan a trip or a get-together with friends, or even try a volunteer opportunity. Having something on your calendar that you are excited about can help relieve some of the gloominess you may be experiencing.
- Utilize your EAP: Many employers offer access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at no cost. An EAP counselor can help you tackle some lingering issues following the holidays and establish a plan to help you get back on track. For example, if the stress of getting back into a routine is overwhelming, the work/life component of many EAPs can provide assistance finding childcare, eldercare and more. Plus, professional counselors can provide short-term assistance which may be just what is needed to help address the post-holiday blues, establish new and realistic goals and start the New Year on a good note. If you think you may be experiencing something more serious, such as the signs of SAD or depression, an EAP counselor can help by discussing concerns and directing you to qualified long-term help as needed.
While the winter weather can get anyone down, there are ways to lift your mood until spring arrives, which is only a short time away!
How Health Advocate Can Help
If you are a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life program, a professional counselor can help address your needs by providing assistance finding resources in your area, like short-term counseling or referrals to long-term help if needed.
Other Helpful Resources
To learn more about the winter blues and how to beat them, please visit any of the websites below for additional information: