Keeping the Blues at Bay

Every year, as the days grow shorter, I update and re-post this article about coping with seasonal depression. I need the reminders each year, and I hope these ideas help you as well. You are not alone.


Friends, remember the January Blues? Well, in my case it turned out to be more than the blues. Turns out I had seasonal affective disorder, thanks in part to the lack of sunlight in winter.

I got some help, thankfully. I insisted to my lovely mental health team that my depression started in January, but my amazing people tracked down the source as closer to September, when school is in full swing and the daylight is disappearing. They were right.

Now that we are almost to November, I’m feeling it. My energy levels are sagging, my headaches are increasing, and the chores are piling up. Now that I’m aware of what’s happening, I’m facing this head on. Here are some tools that I’m hoping will keep me a bit saner this winter.

1. My Happy Light. I love this thing. I bought it one March when it was STILL SNOWING in Nashville and I was desperate. It’s not as bright as medical-grade light therapy device, but I feel like it helps, and it’s quite budget-friendly. (Update: I’ve since swapped my Happy Light for a stronger Philips Blu Light.)

2. Exercise. You knew it, didn’t you? I say this every time, mostly because mental health professionals are always reminding me. Exercise keeps me where I need to be. My current routine includes hip-hop dance classes and Couch to 5K training. This is my biggest struggle right now — I’m tempted to hide at home or stay busy with chores most days.

3. Reaching Out. When the Nashville rain hits in late autumn, I pretty much want to curl up and read or write or sleep. While there are times when that’s appropriate, I’m also deliberately finding times for good talks with friends. This helps keep those unhelpful, self-pitying thought trains at bay.

4. Powerlessness. This solar-powered girl just moves a bit slower in winter, and the sooner I accept those limitations, the more peaceful I will find my life. The beautiful gift of letting go is that I get to turn everything over to Somebody who really does know how to run the world.

5. The Little Things. During my struggles one winter, my therapist suggested citrus essential oils for their mood-boosting properties. I bought myself a vial of sweet orange oil to diffuse, and it felt like a beautiful service of self-care. A new potted plant, my favorite music station, soaking in the precious sunlight — the small acts of care add up to a major mood booster.

So that’s my game plan as the days grow ever darker. I’m going to try to stay flexible, open, and honest as I head into winter. We’ll see what the season holds!

***Friends, sometimes we can try all the tools and do all the right things, and we still find that life is completely overwhelming. If you are in that place today, please reach out to your doctor or a licensed therapist for help. There is hope. ***

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