Yesterday officially marked the shortest day of the year. Whew. As someone who’s prone to anxiety and depression, the lack of daylight is brutal. My moods have hit the tank lately.
Though not fully suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I definitely feel the impact of this season. Each year, though the sleigh bells ring and the joy of Christmas abounds, I struggle to stay afloat.
As winter drones on, I feel the darkness…literally… start to take over. I wish I could say my Christian faith makes me immune to this. But I don’t feel the “joy, joy, joy, joy” or “the peace that paces understanding down in my heart” the way the childhood church chorus taught me through song.
Last winter was one of the worst. I hit an all-time low by April. As I sat in Starbucks with my husband…sobbing…I felt like I’d hit rock-bottom.
I haven’t figured it all out. I don’t have a perfect plan to crawl back out of the hole if I land there again. But, there are a couple of things that did work for me and may help you, too.
Here are 3 tools for coping with depression:
(1) Tell a friend. My tendency is to withdraw, cocoon, curl up in a ball, and isolate when I’m hurting. When I finally told Kevin and my sister how much I was struggling, I felt better. Not a “perfect” kind of better, but a “life will go on” kind of better. They both encouraged me to share my struggle with a few trusted others who would pray for me, listen to me, and speak truth to me. I did. And they did.
(2) Force activity. Even though I didn’t feel like working out, going to church, or leaving the house, I did it anyway. I knew that gaining weight, neglecting my faith, or isolating myself from social engagements would only make things worse. It becomes a matter of will and sometimes, logic, when depression strikes. The endorphins from exercise alone guarantee improved mental health. And they did.
(3) Talk to a professional. Whether it’s a doctor or a trained counselor, sometimes you just need an expert’s help. Lacking access to the counselor I’d seen in the past, I confided in my primary physician. I now have a standing prescription for an anti-depressant I can use if the need arises. Though I’d like to conquer this without medical intervention, there may be other chemical factors at play that are beyond my control. Drugs might help. I’ll let you know if they did.
It’s easy to pretend everything’s okay, especially at Christmas time. Please know that if you’re not experiencing the full joy of the season, there’s no need to fake it with me.
We’ll do our best, together, to find the “joy, joy, joy, joy” in the little victories of each day.
Question: How do you cope with the long days of winter?