Women In Action | Mental Health Monthly
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Welcome to Mental Health Monthly!

On behalf of WIA and all those who offer counseling and psychological services within this organization, we’d like to welcome you to our new blog. Each month we will invite you to read along as we post about various mental health topics particular to Big Sky and Montana.


December 2019

The “Winter Depression” Season

The winter season welcomes many joys like beautiful landscape and long-awaited skiing, but it also seems to welcome seasonal blues. The seasonal blues have a wide spectrum of signs and symptoms related to depression, but experiencing these signs or symptoms do not always indicate that someone has depression. It is normal to experience a lack of energy, social disconnection, and emotional dysregulation during this hectic time of year. However, for some, the winter seems to bring a dark cloud of depression for them, what is diagnostically referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

The National Institute of Mental Health (2016) describes signs and symptoms of SAD as loss of appetite, sleep, energy, and interest in once enjoyed activities, as well as feelings or thoughts of depression, hopelessness, or worthlessness. Other common signs and symptoms are social withdrawal and/or isolation, with accompanying feelings of loneliness. Many factors play into seasonal depression, such as cold weather that affects both physical bodies and environments, lack of sunlight, holiday and/or family pressures, and more specifically for the Big Sky area, community/work transitions and pressures (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). With that being said, not everyone who experiences seasonal mood changes has SAD. We are all affected by the seasonal cycles of winter and the changes it brings. It is common to experience a natural lull in mood during the dark winter months. What differentiates SAD from the more commonly experienced winter blues is severity of symptoms and the recurring cycle of seasonal depression for two or more consecutive years (Robinson, Shubin, & Segal, 2019). Other types of depression, such as major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder, present with similar signs and symptoms but can occur outside of seasonal changes. Knowing how seasonal blues and SAD present and how it develops is helpful, but what is arguably most important to know is how to take care of yourself during the seasonal blues and/or SAD. 

So, have you noticed recent mood changes? If so, refer to the list below for recommendations of how to better cope with seasonal changes. 

  • Spend time with family/friends 
  • Find enjoyable activities
  • Explore the outdoors – access to natural light 
  • Get active in your community 
  • Schedule self-care into your routine 
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule 
  • Exercise
  • Eat Healthy 
  • If concerned about SAD, check in with your primary care doctor who may refer: 
    • Mental health counseling and/or other services 
    • Medication/Vitamins 
    • Light therapy 

(National Institute of Mental Health, 2016; Robinson, Shubin, & Segal, 2019)

If you have any concern for your mental health during the winter months, or anytime during the rest of the year, contact a mental health professional for additional support. We are here to help!

Helpful web sources

National Institute of Mental Health: Depression Booklet – 

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-what-you-need-to-know/depression-what-you-need-to-know-pdf_151827_151827.pdf

HelpGuide SAD –  https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad.htm

Mayo Clinic Diagnostic Page – 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20364722

New York Times: How to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder –  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/smarter-living/coping-with-seasonal-affective-disorder.html

If you are in crisis or need to speak to someone immediately, please call 911, reach out to the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Help Center in Bozeman at 406-586-3333.

References:

National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

Robinson, L., Shubin, J. & Segal, J. (2019). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad.htm 


Welcome!

We’d like to begin by sharing some definitions of wellness and mental health. How do you define ‘wellness’? Wellness to you might mean getting to spend time with your friends and family. Perhaps you feel well when you put in a hard day’s work and can pay all of your bills. Or maybe you feel well when you’re able to make time to get on the mountain. You might feel balanced when you take some time to be alone. Everyone’s definition of wellness will be just a little different, based on factors such as personality, culture, genetics, stress, and life experiences.

Mental health is a combination of the way we think, what we feel, and how we behave, which varies from person to person. Each of these elements can affect the other to produce changes in our psychological health. Increased stress may cause fluctuations to your sleep and eating patterns. Emotional difficulties in school or at work can result in less engagement with family members. Speaking negatively to ourselves in turn can affect how we feel about ourselves. Depression may even cause physiological pain, even disturbances in our digestion.

Having a good understanding of how you, and those close to you, feel balanced and well can be particularly helpful in detecting changes in mental health. Our goal for this new blog is to provide you with more information on the factors that affect mental health as well as tips and resources that may help you or someone you love.

Take a moment to look at the Wellness Wheel from the National Wellness Institute http://(www.nationalwellness.org). How well do you feel you are doing in each of these areas? Are there one or two areas on which you would like to work in order to feel more balanced? Is there anyone you’d like to share the Wheel with?

Crisis Hotline

If you are in crisis or need to speak to someone immediately, please call 911, reach out to the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Help Center in Bozeman at 406-586-3333.