Managing Seasonal Depression

Tips for These Cold Winter Months

Well, folks, it’s that time of year again. The time where I step out of my apartment in a hoodie, only to find two inches of snow on the ground and wind that is cold enough to merit at least two more layers than I’m wearing. Seasonal depression is something a lot of Midwesterners suffer from, myself included. The short days and brutal cold are not conducive to improving mental health, and the urge to simply hibernate all winter is strong. But, unfortunately, humans can’t hibernate like bears do, and the world we live in is not equipped for a winter of rest and relaxation. So here are some tips that I’ve found helpful in beating the winter blues. Disclaimer: I am not a mental health expert. This is not medical advice and I have no qualifications. These are just some things that I’ve found helpful over time, as I’ve been in treatment for depression for the past seven years. Take what is useful to you and leave the rest, and if you need immediately help please reach out to the Counseling Center or call 911.

Keep one light on at all times

Coming back to a dark apartment kind of sucks, especially if you left before the sun came up. I like to keep a string of fairy lights or a lamp on all the time in the winter, so that when I come home it’s never totally dark.

Get up a little early to scrape your car

Isn’t there a Led Zeppelin song about this? Something about “the land of the ice and snow”? Photo Credit | Marie Sayler

This one really only applies to people who drive themselves everywhere and live somewhere without indoor parking. But if that’s you, just trust me when I say this. Getting up ten minutes early is in your best interest. If you need to scrape your car before work, it gives you time to do so, and if you don’t end up needing it, then you have an extra ten minutes to do whatever you want. There is no worse feeling than barely getting out the door on time, only to find that you need to spend five minutes chiseling your car doors open.

Leave your house

You know what exacerbates depression like nothing else? Isolation. This is so much easier in the winter, too, when just stepping outside is agonizing, but it’s important to change up your environment. Something as simple as going to a coffee shop to work on your homework can be really helpful. For me, being around other people is crucial to keeping my mood up, so this is a big one. And if you don’t have $8 coffee funds (I sure don’t), there are still places you can hang out for free. My favorites are the libraries (school and public) and Parachigo, the new art rec center downtown.

Keep your floor visible

This one is hard for me even in the best of times, but it’s something I’m always striving for. Winter means spending a lot of time inside, so making sure that your space is one that you want to be in is crucial. I try extra hard in the winter to not let things get too messy, because if it’s 15 below outside and being in my home makes me want to cry, then I’m off to a pretty bad start.

Cut yourself some slack

Winter is hard. Winter is especially hard in one of the coldest, darkest states in the whole country, so be kind to yourself. Human beings weren’t designed to spend the winter maintaining the same levels of labor and productivity as the rest of the year, but we live in late-stage capitalism and right now it’s what we have to do to survive. Don’t get too down on yourself if you’re having trouble doing basic things or maintaining your summer workload. Kindness is what keeps community strong and the world a better place, and this includes self-compassion. You’re the only person talking to yourself 24/7, so be nice to them. You wouldn’t want someone in your best friend’s ear listing all their flaws day in and day out, so why would you do it to yourself? We’re all having troubles, and kindness will help us all soldier through much better than criticism. I know winter just began, but hang on, everyone. We will make it to spring together.

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