Preparing for Seasonal Depression During a Pandemic

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Hello everyone! The weather is getting chilly, and the leaves are all sorts of beautiful colors. You know what that means? Seasonal Depression is right around the corner!!

While Fall/Autumn is my favorite season, I know that my seasonal depression follows the change in seasons. Over the past few years of being diagnosed, I’ve found that preparing for the Sad Times to come make life easier for me and everyone around me.

This year, I’ve had to be a little different with my preparation. I usually try to get my ducks in a row around November, but because I’ve been hit with the Sad Times pretty much all year thanks in part to the uncertainty of Covid, I’ve been actively working on coming up with ideas to combat when my depression gets really rough.

I’m lucky to have my husband, my friends, and my family to fall back on when I get depressed, but the tips I’m going to share don’t necessarily have to include your loved ones. Sometimes, it feels good to do something nice for yourself!

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My number one tool for distracting myself from being sad is falling back on my hobbies. I used to try and learn one new skill every year, but I quickly decided that that was surprisingly too stressful. Instead, I like to go back to hobbies that I put on the back burner for whatever reason. For example, I used to knit a lot when I was younger. I was never really too good at it, but I liked making little squares and hats. I’ve been thinking of getting back into it, or even attempting crochet.

Remember that if you already have hobbies you love, you don’t have to incorporate new ones into your life if you don’t want to. Sometimes, focusing on one hobby is just as helpful! I suggest trying to make something new out of the hobbies you already love. This year, I’m going to attempt the National Novel Writing Month challenge again (writing a novel in 30 days). Writing is the hobby I come back to the most, so adding a new goal to my daily routine that I actually want to accomplish gives me something to work towards and focus on.

If you like drawing, try doing a 30 day drawing challenge! If you like fashion, maybe come up with different outfits or style boards. If you’re more into sports, try improving on your run time, or trying out some more difficult exercises (but don’t push your body too far, of course!). Finding new goals within your already preferred hobbies is an easy way to make them fresh and new again.

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Me and my friends love to plan various events to go to, like music festivals, movie premieres, and local shows, among other things. The pandemic has made most of those things null and void now. I’ve noticed that making plans in advance with the friends who I usually do those things with make all of us feel just that much better.

You might be sad that your future plans got moved or canceled. I know I am! I’ve been planning little things for myself far out on purpose. For example, I got my first haircut since before the pandemic a month ago. I always schedule getting my eyebrows done a little bit further out than I really have to (like five weeks instead of three). Little things like that make me feel good about me make me feel good in general. If stuff like that doesn’t appeal to you, maybe try making future plans for something else! I can think of a few things, like planning a hike, a Just Because three day weekend, lunch with a friend, whatever! Things to look forward to don’t have to be too big or too people-y. As long as they make you feel good, make a plan to do it!

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Sometimes we plan, plan, plan, and it’s still not enough. It’s not a failure on your part if you wake up with a heavy weight on you. Depression is sneaky! I know it always takes me when I least expect it. I also have some undiagnosed anxiety issues as well. Once I realized my edginess was just anxiety a few years ago, I looked for ways to help with my few and far between (but very intense) panic attacks and found techniques that have actually helped with my depression as well.

(Side note: these tips are just that — tips. I’m not a medical professional so I am not 100% qualified to give you medical advice! Always go talk to a doctor to get an official diagnosis and a treatment plan.)

Mindfulness is something that I was taught by my old therapist back in 2016. Mindfulness is mainly about focusing on the simplicity of the moment. Rooting yourself into the here and now, acknowledging the cons but embracing both the pros and the cons as they are.

One tip I like to tell people about is the “54321 Method”. Simply put, the “54321 Method” works with your senses to pull you out of whatever emotional high or low you are feeling and help you stay mindful and grounded. I think that this is the most effective mindfulness technique I can share. It’s worked to talk me off the ledge multiple times, and to prevent my husband’s intense panic attacks before they get too bad.

“54321” works like so:

  • Catch yourself and breathe. Deep breaths will begin to calm you.
  • Find 5 things you can see. Look around your surroundings and find something that stands out. What is that thing? How does it work? What’s so special about it? Really analyze those 5 things and when you’re done, move on.
  • Find 4 things you can touch. They don’t have to be far from where you are. 4 things that are within your reach are just fine. Think about these things. What does it feel like? Think about the texture, the temperature, the feeling in your hands. Analyze, then move on.
  • Find 3 things you can hear. What’s going on around you? You might think it’s quiet, but there’s always something to listen to. Is it loud? Soft? How does it sound to you? Analyze, then move on.
  • Find 2 things you can smell. Even if you think the room has no scent, keep thinking. You have clothes on? Smell those. If you catch two scents, think about them. What do they smell like? Do they conjure up any memories? Think about how the scents make you feel. Analyze, then move on.
  • Find 1 thing you can taste. It doesn’t have to be anything physical. Remembering how something tastes works too. How does that taste feel in your mouth, imaginary or otherwise? Is it good? Bad? Consider the texture if you have a real food item in your mouth. If imagining, imagine how it could feel. Analyze, then breathe deeply. Continue focusing on breathing until you feel better, or need a new technique.

Besides using mindfulness techniques, I have also found that exercise, eating healthy (or at least regularly), and keeping to a routine really helps me stay distracted and less susceptible to slipping downwards mood wise. If you’re curious about more mindful techniques, feel free to click here for a Google page full of the most common practices.

Hopefully some of this will help you guys get through the Fall and Winter happily and healthily. I know seasonal depression (and regular depression) sneak up when we least expect it, so it’s a good idea to mentally prepare for when it gets hard!

If you’d like, follow me on Twitter for daily shenanigans. I’m sure something I retweet will have you laughing in no time! Thanks for reading, as always. I’ll see you next week!

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I write about music, movies, life, and Other Generic Things.

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