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Seasonal depression

Over the last several weeks I haven't felt myself. I've been unmotivated and sluggish, prone to napping during the day, and lying like a lump in front of the TV at night. I’ve even reduced my walks and gym routine because I just haven’t had the energy.


I've known for years that I experience seasonal depression in late winter – depressive symptoms caused by decreased sunlight. I’ve never been a fan of winter, and now that I golf (and live in New England), winter doesn’t stand a chance in my book. I usually feel it around mid-March, but this year it’s been delayed. I know because I’m in it.


It seems I’m not alone. Many of my friends and clients have been complaining of feeling blue. Why now? The days are longer and gradually warming, the flowers are blooming. You’d think the winter-blues would be behind us.


It seems there are several factors at play. The moon cycle, for one, can disrupt our circadian rhythm and impact sleep cycles. Storms are stronger and last longer, resulting in days of gray skies and rain, or even snow, depriving us of that well-needed sunlight.


Then there are man-made factors ­– wars, the looming election, and day-to-day stresses which can be made worse by the way our moods reduce our productivity, and negatively impact those around us.


Here are some ways to cope with seasonal depression:


Be kind and patient

Give yourself permission to feel all the feelings rather than fight them. If your body, mind or soul needs rest, rest. Minimize your activities to align with your energy level. The harder you fight, the worse you'll feel.


Eat well

Eat whole foods and reduce alcohol. While junk food and booze can provide a momentary lift, they add to the sluggishness and bolster the inner-critic.


Enjoy nature

Get outside. Gardening is a great mood lifter, as are short walks outdoors. I recommend doing this without devices to give your brain a break, and enliven your other senses with the sounds and colors around you.


Limit exposure

Reduce your news intake to the minimal amount that feels acceptable. Much of the news we consume is deliberately inflammatory, intended to make us angry or afraid, or both. Find sources that report just facts. Also, if you typically watch the news, consider shifting to radio or the newspaper to minimize the assault on multiple senses.


Talk it out

If you’re finding that this feeling is continuing for more than a couple of weeks, or that you can’t seem to get out of it, talk to a professional. You may need a little extra help to get over the hump. There’s no shame in that, and it will get you back into your life.


And remember, May is just around the corner.

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