How to deal with winter depression
“The winter blues, start acting before it’s too late,” reads a popular poster addressing the infamous Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression. One moment you’re breathing in the refreshing cold air and celebrating Christmas, and the next, you’re lying in bed on a dark cloudy afternoon, struggling to find the trace of any reason to get out of bed.
In this article by Pacific Prime Hong Kong, we’ll take a deep dive into what SAD really is, and give you a few tips on how to deal with winter depression.
What is seasonal affective disorder
Darker skies, colder temperatures, more processed food and less socialization combined make the perfect storm that brings people’s moods to an all-year low, leading to winter depression. Less exposure to sunlight during the winter also leads to a decline in vitamin D over the winter months, a phenomenon associated with depressive symptoms.
Many people who do not have clinical depression suffer from similar symptoms during the winter, giving the disorder the nickname ‘winter depression’. The illness’s acronym – ‘SAD’ – is telling of the symptoms associated with winter blues, which include:
- Persistent low mood
- Feeling of loneliness
- Loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities
- Feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness
- Feeling sleepy during the day, sleeping for longer than usual, and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight
Make sure you look out for these symptoms and take note of the following tips to make sure that the winter blues don’t get the better of you this coming winter.
How to prevent winter depression
As the last winter of this decade approaches, these are the two most important tips you should keep in mind that will prevent symptoms of winter depression from appearing.
1. Get more exposure to daylight
As hours with sunlight dwindles in winter, it’s important that you go out for a mid-day walk as often as possible to get the much-needed sunlight exposure. Sunlight has been shown to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin, which is associated with boosting mood and preventing feelings like sadness and loneliness.
Getting more sunlight exposure can also prevent you from sleeping in during the winter. Darkness or darker light triggers the brain to release another hormone called melatonin, which promotes sleep.
Finally, sunlight exposure is the primary source of vitamin D for your body. Studies have found a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression, with vitamin D receptors being located in the same area of the brain associated with depression.
For these reasons, taking short strolls during the day can go a long way to prevent you from feeling down during the winter season.
2. Go out more and socialize with others
For many people, the symptoms of winter depression start with the feeling of loneliness. This could be because people tend to stay at home during the winter days to keep warm. However, this results in a lack of social interaction and can often lead to depressive emotions.
Hence, making an effort to meet up with loved ones or colleagues during your free time can help prevent symptoms, such as loneliness and sadness from appearing, and stop you from getting the winter blues this winter.
How to deal with winter depression
The first two tips mentioned are effective ways of how to get out of the low, depressive mood of the winter blues. However, if they’re not working, here are three additional ways on how to deal with winter depression.
1. Maintain a healthy diet
Once you’re deep in the depressive mood of SAD, you may find yourself craving carbohydrates and sugar. This is nothing out of the ordinary, and eating an egg tart or a chocolate cake can lift your mood temporarily. However, doing so only alleviates the surface symptoms of winter depression and as Hong Kong parents will tell their children, eating too many egg tarts each day is bad for both your weight and your teeth!
Instead, eating healthily can lift you out of winter depression while also improving your physical health. A meta-analysis on the link between diet quality and depression found that eating fish and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of depression.
In the case of winter depression, an apple (or fish) a day may actually keep the doctor away.
2. Stay warm and cozy
Keeping your home especially warm can create a sense of security and comfort, truly allowing you to relax in a safe space amid the cold winter season. This may mean cranking up a heater to keep your living room warm, having a regular cup of hot tea to keep your body warm, or lighting up candles to create a warm and cozy atmosphere at home.
3. Talk about it
Talking about your mental health struggle is the first step to recovery. Doing so can allow you to receive emotional support from your friends and family. The chances are, they will have experienced the winter blues before as well, and will be able to offer you their coping tips. If symptoms continue to worsen, make sure you seek professional help by visiting a mental health professional near you.
Winter comes around every year, and if you are prone to severe symptoms of winter depression, the cost of seeking professional help may add up, putting a dent into your savings. Thankfully, the cost of mental health is covered by most major insurers in Hong Kong, lowering the financial risk of regularly visiting mental health practitioners.
If you’d like to know more about health insurance in Hong Kong, feel free to contact our experts at Pacific Prime at any time. As health insurance brokers, we are well-equipped to help you find the best private health insurance for expats in Hong Kong.
Through partnering with the best private health insurance companies in Hong Kong, we have a wide range of plans available, such as family medical insurance plans for expat families, group health insurance plans that cover mental health, as well as international health insurance plans in Hong Kong.
To get a no-obligation, free price comparison quote, visit our website today!
In his free time, Phuwit enjoys reading and playing badminton. He also loves a good cup of coffee.
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