For many of the early years in my life, autumn and winter harvested my favorite memories of adolescence, from baking with my grandparents to playing board games by the Christmas tree. Excluding the cavities, this time of the year never failed to put my seven-year-old self at ease.
One fall season, in my last year of middle school, a pit in my stomach grew. Suddenly, the thought of all my favorite holidays made me uncomfortable and anxious. I began to wish away the morning sun the second I stood up from my bed and felt burdened by my own existence. Every day became a chore. Eventually, I could barely take care of myself.
My mind was nothing short of a terrifying place during the time that followed and it affected everything. Like one domino falling in front of the other, first my grades fell and at once my health shattered. On top of exhaustion, I experienced chronic hopelessness and lacked all motivation, which led me to spiral into very serious episodes of depression.
I had the dangerous mindset that things would get better on their own. While for some this may be true, the reality is that it’s not for most people.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t for me — at least not on its own.
This pattern continued throughout high school and propelled me into a fight against my own brain. Years later, I am only just now feeling in control of my condition. With help and advice from medical professionals and my support system, I received a diagnosis and eventually relief.
Given the current political state of the country, not everyone has access to healthcare and therapists aren’t cheap. With that said, there are plenty of other resources to help you get through these cold winter months.
If you are anything like me — to which I pray you aren’t — you probably are glued to your smartphone. You may even find yourself scrolling endlessly on TikTok, or worse, you have come to have an affinity for the Ace family. Regardless, neither provide purpose. Not to worry though, there are many apps that seek to improve daily habits and enrich the quality of living.
Mood tracking applications such as Reflectly provide its consumers a safe space to properly track their day-to-day moods. Given that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is clinically categorized as a mood disorder, the ability to visualize emotional patterns is important because it allows room to prepare.
Exercising is another accessible resource that may curb certain symptoms. Whether that be running, walking or playing a pickup game, research shows that increased heart rate spikes dopamine levels, which in turn may alleviate long-term depression.
In an article by the American Psychologist Association, a clinical psychologist named James Blumenthald argued, “There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people.” In essence, don’t skip leg day.
Aside from dopamine, vitamins play significant roles when it comes to mental health. In the words of my doctor, you should spend more time in the sun to absorb as much vitamin D as possible. If you live in a dark area, invest in artificial lighting. This form of treatment is referred to as light therapy and can be useful to those who find it hard to get out of the house.
Another way to unload is simply by talking. Try to be transparent to family and friends about your mental state. It can be extremely difficult to ask for help, but remember that reaching out to others can’t do much harm. At the end of the day, only you know yourself. If you feel unsafe, tell someone. There are people who love you and support you, including me!
If all else fails, journaling is always an option. Having an outlet to let go of emotional baggage is crucial. Otherwise, bottled up feelings will explode at some point. There are thousands of free prompts on the internet readily available. No excuses, so get writing!
Sophia Sipe is a writer for The Express. Follow her @SophiaSipe