We all experience fluctuations in our mood and energy levels for different reasons. And, for many, these are more pronounced during the fall and winter months — months that are generally characterised by longer nights and colder temperatures. Some of the changes we may notice include difficulty getting out of bed, decreased productivity and motivation, a desire to stay indoors and engage in more sedentary activities, and increased fatigue. This happens to approximately 15 to 20 percent of the population.
For some of us, the changes are more pronounced. This may indicate that we’re struggling with seasonal depression (also known as seasonal affective disorder and major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern). This type of depression is recurring, and one might notice a significant shift in their well-being consistently as the seasons change. It affects approximately 2 to 5 percent of the population.
Symptoms can include:
- Carbohydrate craving and weight gain
- Extreme fatigue
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling irritable or agitated
- Difficulty with sleep
- Loss of interest in things we usually enjoy
- Thoughts of death and/or self-harm
Anyone might experience these symptoms on occasion, but when a person has seasonal depression, they experience them all day, almost every day for the duration of the winter. These symptoms disrupt daily life, and may lead to difficulties with their work, relationships, and more.
There are some things we can all do to help improve our mood and energy levels throughout the winter season. Why not try some of the following techniques?
- Spend as much time outside as possible
- Sit next to a window to increase access to sunlight
- Engage in physical activity
- Eat a balanced diet
- Spend time with the people you care about
This list can help us through the difficult months, and can prevent the onset of seasonal depression. We can also try to attend Jamatkhana regularly. Making an effort to do so can:
- Remind us of the balance between faith and world
- Help us stay active
- Surround us by people who care about us
- Remind us of our spiritual well-being and upliftment
- Remind us that we are connected to a community in a way that transcends words and actions
If you are having a hard time, speak with a primary care provider (e.g., family doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.) about your symptoms. They may offer some options such as medication, psychotherapy, and/or light therapy.
Regardless of how we are struggling, it can be helpful to know that we are not alone. Symptoms of depression can trick us into believing we are alone and isolated, but we are not. We have an entire community that cares for us and wants to support us. If you need help, don’t be shy to ask for it.
Dr Taslim Alani-Verjee is a Clinical Psychologist and al-waeza living in Ontario, Canada. She is the founder of Silm Centre for Mental Health and the co-founder of Feelings Unpacked.