Sometimes the snow starts falling and doesn’t seem to stop. The sun rises, but for so little time that it might as well not be there at all. If you’re dealing with a lot of snow and not a lot of sunlight, you likely live in a northern climate where winters are especially bad for the brain as well as the body. Vitamin D deficiencies abound in locales like Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, especially in the period from roughly November to March (or maybe April). It’s enough to make one want to move to a place like Florida, one where the whole “four separate seasons” thing is more of a theory than anything. But most people don’t want to move, even when they’re struggling. They have jobs, friends, and family members in these dark, cold places, and moving is expensive. So they have to figure out other coping methods for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
When the weather is bad and we feel bad, we just want to stay inside and hide under the covers, ideally with some chocolate and/or alcohol. That’s fine occasionally, but hibernation is for bears, not humans. We’re social creatures, and we do better when we have things to occupy ourselves. So when a friend invites you to a party in the middle of January, go ahead and RSVP yes. Sure, getting up and getting dressed can be a drag, but most of the time it feels better than the alternative. It may not seem worth it until the moment you arrive at the party and realize that it feels better to be around other people who are also struggling with the winter. It’s nice to know you’re not alone. If you live by yourself, getting out like this is even more crucial.
Don’t rule out the possibility of a quick escape to a warmer climate, either. If an incredibly crowded tourist hotspot feels overwhelming, visit a more under-the-radar location like Henry County, Georgia, which has plenty to do and plenty of nice weather in which to do it.
Get professional help
There’s never anything wrong with seeking professional help for mental health. It’s stigmatized in certain parts of society, but that stigma is gradually fading away as more and more people become open about their struggles with things like depression and anxiety. The lack of sunlight can even mess up your internal clock and make it hard to go to sleep when you’re supposed to, which in turn makes it almost impossible to wake up at the right time. Whether you’re spending winter in New Hampshire or New Jersey, sleep disorder assessment and treatment might be something that can really help you feel better.
Don’t be afraid to get on medication, either. Don’t feel like you have to, of course, but it’s not something to be scared of. It’s just one option among several that exist for treating those winter blues. When spring rolls around and the time changes, you may feel comfortable talking to your doctor about going off the medication, or you may decide to keep taking it. Do what you need to do to practice self-care, and remember that there will be sunnier days ahead.