SLO County Behavioral Health Provides Tips on How to Manage Seasonal Depression

Author: Behavioral Health
Date: 12/13/2023 3:01 PM

As the fall and winter seasons unfold, many community members may find themselves grappling with a temporary and challenging emotional state known as seasonal depression. Here are some signs and symptoms, potential causes, coping strategies and resources, for those seeking support.

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA—As the fall and winter seasons unfold, many community members may find themselves grappling with a temporary and challenging emotional state known as seasonal depression. According to recent surveys, more than 10 million Americans admit to being affected by seasonal depression, a phenomenon distinct from clinical mental health diagnoses.

Seasonal depression manifests as feelings of anxiety, depression, sadness, fatigue, loss, and loneliness, typically emerging in late fall or early winter. The symptoms often subside during the sunnier days of spring and summer. It is a widespread issue that can impact anyone, which can be exacerbated by increased stress levels, holiday season expectations, pressures, and reduced sun exposure.

Dr. Star Graber, Director of the County of SLO’s Behavioral Health Department, emphasizes the importance of prioritizing mental health this season. "Let's recognize the signs and encourage open conversations about seasonal depression. Together, we can create a supportive environment to help community members navigate and manage these challenging emotions."

Signs and Symptoms include:

  • Feeling persistently sad or down;
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities;
  • Low energy and sluggishness;
  • Excessive sleep or sleep problems;
  • Carbohydrate cravings, overeating, and weight gain;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt; and, possibly
  • Thoughts of not wanting to live.

Potential Causes: While the precise cause of seasonal depression remains unclear, several factors may contribute, including disruptions to the biological clock due to reduced sunlight, drops in serotonin, low vitamin D, and fluctuations in melatonin levels.

Coping Strategies: To combat seasonal depression, individuals are encouraged to adopt various coping strategies, which may include the following:

  • Stick to normal routines and plans to stay organized.
  • Ensure adequate sleep for reduced fatigue and tension.
  • Avoid isolation by surrounding oneself with supportive friends and family.
  • Practice self-care through activities like reading, music, meditation, and cooking.
  • Engage in regular physical exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Set reasonable expectations and avoid overextending or overscheduling.
  • Establish a budget to alleviate financial stress.
  • Consume nutritious food, eat consistently, and limit alcohol intake to maintain positive moods and energy levels.

For Those Seeking Support, here are two vital hotline numbers:

  1. Central Coast Hotline: 1-800-783-0607 (24/7). A local, confidential mental health support, crisis, and suicide prevention telephone line offering information on mental health resources. Free of charge. Call anytime.
  2. CalHOPE Warm Line: 1-833-317-HOPE (4673) (24/7). The CalHOPE warm line connects callers to people who have persevered through struggles with stress, anxiety, depression—emotions triggered by circumstances and events in everyday life. Peer counselors listen with compassion, provide non-judgmental support, and guide you to additional resources that can give hope and help you cope. Additionally, CalHOPE Connect offers safe, secure, and culturally sensitive emotional support for all Californians who may need support related to stress, anxiety, depression, and worries we face.