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Is it the Winter Blues or Depression?

January and February can be difficult months. November and December on the other hand, as I prepared for the holidays, the excitement buzzing around me was almost palpable. I was eager for upcoming activities and hopeful about time with family and friends as well as celebrating annual traditions. For many, the holidays even came with some extended time off to rest and rejuvenate our often tired souls. But then as soon as New Years came and went, I have found that I am left exhausted and feeling deflated. The gray skies, cooler weather, and dampness at times this past week haven’t helped. I can tell that my own mood has changed almost with the changing of the calendar.

It is natural for our moods to fluctuate while we struggle with breakups, job losses, and other life stressors. But did you know that our moods can experience additional fluctuation during winter months? It’s normal for us to feel a little bit “down” after we have experienced the passing of a big event that we have anticipated for months or as the weather changes which can often lead to us staying inside more often and isolating ourselves. But for some people, this fluctuation can be more than just a regular “lull” we all experience.

Did you know that in January there is often an increase of people checking into mental health facilities? Also, did you know there is usually an increase in suicide attempts?

If you have noticed a shift in your own mood or that of someone you love, and have felt “depressed,” I encourage you to ask some questions to figure out if it’s the usual fluctuation of mood often experienced in the winter or if it’s possible that it’s depression. Over the past two weeks have you or someone you loved…

  • Felt sad or empty most of the day or experienced frequent crying

  • Experienced decreased energy or loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy

  • Had significant increase or decrease in weight or appetite when not dieting

  • Had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or desire to sleep all the time

  • Felt tired or fatigued most of the time

  • Felt worthless or guilty (more than usual)

  • Felt uncharacteristically indecisive or had trouble concentrating

  • Felt like your body feels slow-moving and heavy

  • Had thoughts of suicide or thoughts that it would be better to no longer be here

The darkness closes in on so many of us in winter. But for some of us, it’s hard to manage this darkness on our own. If you or someone you know is currently struggling with these symptoms listed above, I encourage you to reach out and seek support. Call your pastor or therapist so they can help you discern if it’s normal post-holiday sadness or a diagnosable form of depression.

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