How do I keep from sinking into another depression this winter?

Is your heart sinking at the prospect of another long winter? You might struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Here is fall again, and as the days get longer, so does my face. The kids go back to school, all of the fun of summer is done, and it gets darker and darker every day. I can hardly think of facing another long winter here. I didn’t want to move here to start with — away from my family — and I knew that it was just gloomy here all winter.  Overall, given the job that my husband has, this is the best location for us, but my heart is sinking at the prospect of another winter here. How do I keep from sinking into another depression this winter?

There is a saying that the best way to predict the future is to create it.  Sounds like you want to create a future where winter here feels a whole lot better than winters here, in the past.

From your letter, there are a couple of things to consider.

The first of these is the possibility that you struggle with a condition known as SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some persons are simply more sensitive to winters, where there is less light, than others. On the coast, we tend to get a lot of cloud over the winter. This, combined with the natural lessening of sunshine due to the season, leads these sensitive persons to feel more down — even to the point of some pretty severe depression.

SAD is different from a kind of hunkering down for the winter, where some people may naturally feel they are in tune with the rhythm of nature. SAD involves thoughts and feelings that are unhappy and/or distressing. These are worse than at other times of the year. The lack of energy that often accompanies SAD makes it harder to do one’s normal activities. Pleasure and satisfaction can be hard to find. SAD also tends to be in a cycle: as spring and greater sunshine returns, there is a noticeable improvement in mood.

So, if this sounds like you, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the possibility that SAD is what you are experiencing. Treatment, as well as meaning that it is helpful to get outside more often and up the mountain to where there is more sunshine as often as possible, can also mean use of a special light therapy. It is simple and can be very effective.

There are also some other possibilities.

I gather that you had to make a pretty tough choice to move here. As well as the weather not being what you would like, it meant leaving your family. An “all things considered, this is the best choice” decision tends to give overall better results. It does not, however, mean that they are perfect.

Acknowledging your feelings may help to point to ways to move through this winter more comfortably. Are you missing your family and finding that the kids being back in school triggers this missing? Are you lonely? Are you bored? Is there someone who needs to more fully acknowledge the sacrifice you made to move here?

I realize that these questions may seem like shots in the dark. Acknowledge what you feel though … and then become active. Whatever the feeling is, ask yourself what the next small step in the direction of feeling better could be. Then do it. Perhaps you are missing your family.  A next small step might be to look into a phone plan that would enable you to call them more often. Lonely? Think about where people whom you might like might gather. Perhaps you enjoy needlework. A next step might be to check in the newspaper’s community news for a needlework club … you get the idea. Being as active as is possible at any given time is helpful.

You are on the right track by wanting to create a better winter for yourself.

If you would like to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at Consult a Counsellor is provided by the registered clinical counsellors at Pacific Therapy & Consulting: Nancy Bock, Diane Davies, Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Karen Turner. It appears every second Friday.


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