Winter Blues or Depression?
Feb 04, 2020
It’s cold and dark outside, the sun hasn’t shined in days, and you are feeling sad, uncomfortable, and down-right irritated. You can see these same frustrations in your child and after weeks of sluggish behaviors and grumpy conversations, you begin to ask yourself “Is this the winter blues or something bigger?”
In children, just as in adults, it is very common to feel a change in mood and energy levels during the winter months. Shorter days mean less sunlight, causing internal clocks to get off. This can effect sleeping habits and energy levels. In addition, chilly temperatures often mean staying inside and swaying from regular schedules. And, if done frequently, can negatively affect mental health.
So, how do we decipher if these changes in mood and behavior are your average winter blues or something more? FamilyMeans Clinical Director, Erin Rowlson says “Many of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, mirror those of the winter blues. These symptoms can include irritability, changes in sleep habits, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, social withdrawal, and more. I recommend having a conversation with your child. Do you get a sense that they are just having an off day(s) or do you sense hopelessness or uncontrollable emotions? As a parent, it is important to trust your gut. If you think your child may be depressed, set-up an appointment to be seen by a professional”.
Not sure where to start? Try some of the tips below to help minimize the effects of winter weather on mental health. If you are still seeing signs of depression in your child, set-up an appointment with a therapist.
Tips to Combat Winter Blues
1. Exercise: Keeping active is very important. If you can brave the outdoors to get your daily 60 minutes of movement that is even better!
2. Eat healthy: A balanced diet is key in keeping a healthy body, and that effects the mind! Be sure to stay away from sweets, and choose fruits or vegetables.
3. Use lights to mimic sun: Turn on lights when getting up in the morning and keep a brightly lit home throughout the day. You can also purchase specialized lamps that provide a glow to give you/your child a daily dose of sunshine.
4. Stay social: Attending school, work, and social obligations can seem like a pain on frigid winter days, but getting out of the house, conversing with peers, and staying active can help to combat depression.
5. Open up: Talk to your children about how you are handling the winter and feelings you are having. They may be feeling the same way and you can help each other work through it.
6. Fun at home: Getting snowed in is a perfect excuse for family time. Plan a movie night or work on a home project. Don’t feel trapped inside, instead find ways to have fun together!
FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy provides school-based mental health services in 25 schools in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. This means students and families can see a therapist at school, at a time that is convenient for them. Get back to happy. Set-up an appointment today by contacting FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy at 651-439-4840 or submitting an online request here.
Learn more about FamilyMeans School-Based Mental Health (including what schools we provide services in) here.