8 points on emergency preparedness for winter depression

the days are getting shorter. it’s raining. cold creeps in.

for some people, yet another bout of winter depression, or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is just around the corner.

chronic and recurring conditions – and for many people, depression falls under those categories – are manageable. we can learn from them: each time they happen, we can take note so that we can improve next time around.

it’s a little like emergency response. think about how hard places like japan used to be hit by earthquakes. yet today tokyo, for example, has a whole system of confidently building skyscrapers. it stands on shaky ground, just like people with mental illness often feel they stand on shaky ground, but with patience, experience and ingenuity, that didn’t prevent it from becoming one of the most vibrant, successful cities.

here are some ways to prepare for the depression emergency that my clients and i have found useful:

  1. make your mental health a priority. take an hour or so to think about what that means for you. if mental health is a big issue for you, you might have to make it priority number one – before work, before relationships. definitely before TV, computer use and whatever other “escape” activities you engage in.
  2. devise a ruse to get yourself outdoors for at least 30 minutes each day, during the daytime.
  3. don’t draw the curtains! drawing the curtains, together with the next point, not answering the phone, is perhaps one of the most typical activities of people in depression.it seems like a small thing but doing this helps in many ways. it keeps you connected with the world and with light, on a very physical level. when it feels like you don’t have the emotional connection, at least you can have the physical connection.
  4. answer your phone, for the reasons mentioned in 3. and 5.
  5. make sure to interact with people on a daily basis. talk and listen. the isolation that creeps in around depression is similar to the false protection our muscles try to give us after an injury. when you’re right in the depression, a lot of the things people say will irritate and bore you.however, if you can tell yourself before it gets too bad that staying connected will ultimately help you, you may not even fall that low, and you might just be able to stand the discomfort of these seemingly irritating interactions.
  6. make sure you have a trusted person from whom you can expect the understanding that you might not be able to get from others at this time. a friend, a spiritual director, a counsellor, a doctor.
  7. if you have a trusted mental health professional, make sure you stay in touch with her or him and do your best to follow any plans you’ve laid out together. this is probably not the time to experiment.
  8. most importantly, listen to yourself. what does your body need? what does your soul need? again, if you get yourself to train your inner ear now, you’ll have an easier time picking up on the messages should the numbness of depression set in more fully.

what are some ways that help you prepare for and live through the emergency of depression?

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