Fending Off Depression Symptoms in Winter
Try this winter game plan to ease symptoms of depression.
Consider a Treatment Tune-Up
If you've got a history of diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), re-evaluate your depression treatment this year. "Ask your doctor if you need more medication or more talk therapy," Rosenthal says.
Sometimes, increasing your antidepressant dose in early October, through March or so, helps, says Alan Gelenberg, MD, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
For some people with winter depression, getting more therapy during colder months can help, too, Gelenberg says. "If they do better coming in once or twice a week, fine," he says. But "for a lot of people that's not the case."
Instead, he sometimes focuses during therapy on providing a patient a set of tools to use when mood declines. The goal: Help people with depression recognize when their mood is becoming low and take action by reaching out to friends.
Another useful depression strategy: do more "homework" between your formal therapy sessions, suggests Josephson. He advises patients to keep a mood log. Journals or logs help people identify moods and their reactions to situations. This understanding, in turn, helps people with depression evaluate and replace negative thoughts.
He also advises patients to stop "ruminating" -- going over and over a perceived shortcoming in their mind. He cautions them to replace negative thoughts, such as "The party will be bad," or "People think poorly of me" with more positive ones.
Beware If You Crave Sweets and Carbs
Craving carbohydrates -- especially sweets -- is a common symptom of SAD, Rosenthal says.
But the boost in energy you get form these simple carbs is temporary, and the extra sweets can mean you'll put on weight. "I recommend a diet low in simple carbohydrates and high in complex carbohydrates [such as whole grain foods and starchy vegetables such as potatoes] and protein," he says.