6 Simple Ways To Overcome Seasonal DepressionNov 26, 2020
Last year I had the worst winter blues of my life.
I mean, I did not want to get out of the bed or see anyone if didn't have to. I felt exhausted and yet had trouble sleeping. Running the day-to-day business operations felt like climbing Mount Everest each and every day. I had so much to be happy about, but it didn't feel that way.
It took me a few weeks to realize that I might be dealing with some form of depression, as I've never felt this way before.
Being me, I've researched the heck out of it and I came to learn that I was dealing with seasonal depression, or so-called "winter depression". Studies have shown that changes in how we interact with light and how we view our visual environment can negatively impact mental and physical health.
Some people are more sensitive than others to the lack of daylight. It turns out I am one of them.
We tend to forget that we are an integral part of the environment and changes in nature have a biological effect on us.
As this year we all been challenged in many ways and here in Europe we are heading into the winter, I want to share my personal experience and simple tools I've used last year to get out of the seasonal depression and what I am doing this year to keep the winter blues at bay.
4 SIMPLE THINGS I DID LAST YEAR
The very first thing I did, I talked to my fiance and told him I might need to seek professional help if the few life-style changes I've decided to make will not be effective over the next 4 weeks.
The second thing I did, I spent more time outdoors during the day. I went for 2 walks whether I felt like it, or not. Rain or shine, I was getting my 2 walks in. They were about 30 minutes, sometimes a little shorter or longer.
The third thing I did, I've started taking a herbal supplement called Rhodiola Rosea. It's a herb that is native to Siberia and northern Scandinavia. In traditional folk medicine, the herb has been used for centuries to fight fatigue and depression, increase physical endurance, enhance work productivity. Rhodiola is considered an adaptogen, an agent that increases one’s resistance to biological, chemical, and physical stressors. Clinical studies confirmed its effectiveness and showed multiple benefits for mental and physical health. It worked like magic for me. I would recommend doing your own research and consulting with a doctor before taking any supplements.
The fourth thing I did, I made more effort to dress up nicely and do my make-up, even on those days when I worked from home and had no meetings. It made me feel good about myself each time I looked in the mirror.
With 3 weeks or so I started to feel like myself again. My sleep & mood improved, energy levels came back to normal, my ability to focus increased dramatically, and overall I felt much happier. I continued taking the herbal supplement for another 2 months and stayed active by simply getting outside for 2 walks during the day. These simple 4 things have helped me to get out of the seasonal depression and allowed me to perform as my best self in running businesses.
ADDITIONAL THINGS I AM DOING THIS YEAR
With the recent lockdown here in the UK, the weather getting colder, days getting shorter, and spending more time indoors about two weeks ago I've started noticing changes to my mood, energy levels, and disrupted sleep pattern. Now I am able to recognize the early signs of the winter blues getting on my doorstep.
This year I've spent a significant amount of time studying neuroscience, especially learning from the Ph. D. Andrew Huberman, who is a Professor of Neuroscience & Lab Director, at Stanford. Here are a few neurosciences backed up things I will be adding to my toolkit to keep the winter blues at bay:
1. View natural light early in the day
Upon waking up, I open the curtains and simply look through the window for 10 minutes or so. Even if it's cloudy, I simply let the morning light into my eyes. Ideally, you would want to get outside, but I am keeping it easy and actionable.
It turns out, we have a set of neurons in our eyes called melanopsin cells which inform the brain and then the rest of the cells in the body when to be awake and when to be asleep. Professor of Neuroscience Andrew Huberman says: "When this mechanism is disrupted, we see bad things happen: we see poor immunity, poor metabolism, we see mental health issues and overall negative effect."
2. Avoid bright light between 10 pm and 4 am
Studies have shown that bright light exposure between 10 pm and 4 am can trigger a pro-depressive circuit, it can reduce the amounts of dopamine that you make, it can disrupt blood sugar regulation.
It's suggested to dim the lights at home and if possible, keep the lights low in your physical environment.
3. Avoid staring at my phone screen while on a walk
Actual movements of objects passed us as we walk or run actually quiet some of the circuits that are responsible for stress. This mechanism is called Optic Flow.
If we spend too much time indoors or in the same space, we might start to experience an increased level of stress. That is simply to do with the lack of optic flow, we are designed to move and the body starts to send signals to get us moving.
That's why I try to avoid staring at the screen while going on a walk.
Mental health is as important as your physical health.
The only way to reach the next level in your performance, in your business or personal life is highly dependant on the state of your mental and physical health. Last year I got to experience what it's like to struggle with my mental health and I hope that by sharing my experience and simple tools I've used I can help you get back and stay on the top of the game in reaching the next level in your business and personal life.