Tips for managing seasonal depression

As the weather has proven lately, it’s undeniably winter.

As the weather has proven lately, it’s undeniably winter.

It’s important to acknowledge that some of us are in a time of seasonal depression. Though they’re getting longer, the days are still short. The sun comes up when some of us are already at work or school, and the sun is down by the time we get home.

As the New York Times defines it, seasonal depression is “a type of depression that occurs with the changing of the seasons and can affect up to 10 percent of people in the United States, depending on where they live.”

There is actually a difference between “winter blues” and seasonal depression. Seasonal depression is a clinical form of depression with longer symptoms. Symptoms of seasonal depression include constant feelings of depression, changes in appetite, feelings of low energy, unhealthy sleeping patterns (having a hard time falling asleep, and then oversleeping during the day), and sometimes thoughts of death.

Most people who experience seasonal depression have it during the winter time. Experts don’t know exactly what causes this depression, but the top theory is that it has to do with melatonin levels. Generally the body produces melatonin at night to help you fall asleep. When the higher melatonin levels go down in the morning, you wake up.

However, with winter seasonal depression, melatonin levels reach their maximum later and thus stay longer into the morning, making it harder to wake up. However, there are ways to deal with seasonal depression.

For example: “I watch and read cozy works of fiction while I’m drinking warm tea,” said local student Lucy Hall, 16.

Our favorite strategies:

  • Shinglemill Creek hike. Being out in the green, lush, moss covered trees can help calm the mind as well as appreciate what the rain and grey months give us. Of course there are other hikes too; however, Shinglemill is especially beautiful this time of year.
  • Baking! We’ve been really into baking pumpkin bread recently.
  • Cozy movies and shows: In our opinion, it’s never a bad time to restart “Gilmore Girls.” But other cozy movies are: “Little Woman,” “Mamma Mia,” “Notting Hill,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Harry Potter,” “The Princess Bride,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and “The Parent Trap.”
  • Hot drinks: if you’re feeling especially down, treat yourself to a hot drink at one of our cafes. The mulled cider at Café Luna is especially good this time of year.
  • Going outside! Even if it looks grey, the light outside will be better than the light inside.
  • It’s possible that Vitamin D can help alleviate symptoms in people with vitamin deficiency.
  • Bright light therapy (sitting in front of a light therapy box), which imitates outdoor light. Try sitting in front of it for 30 minutes every day a soon as you wake up.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy or “CBT” helps shift unhealthy and unproductive ways of thinking. For example: “I prefer the summer months to the winter months” instead of “I hate the winter months.”

Ellis Giller and Claire Mitchell are lifelong Vashon residents and students at Annie Wright in Tacoma. This article is republished from their health and wellness blog “Simple Roots,” which is part of a school project. Their website can be found at