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Sunshine key to curb seasonal depression

This quarterly publication’s theme for this time around is Think Spring. Those words get one’s mind churning about flowers, warmer weather, spring cleaning, new life, and all that is coming back from the depths of winter freeze.

I am choosing to take parents another direction with this concept. Though this winter has been relatively mild, it is still winter. If you are a stay-at-home parent, the season of winter can be hardest, and you can only long for spring.

Some parents await feeling better emotionally.

Thinking back to my days when I was predominantly at home both before my kids were in school and after, I remember the winter months being the hardest. Snow and cold and gray skies made the home seem darker than normal. The kids were extra irritable. Sickness was more prominent in these months. When my kids were school-age there were these things known as snow days. (OK, we still have them, and in some instances more often than ever). Some considered them a blessing but I often dreaded them. I love having my kids nearby and safe, but I hate the feeling of being caught up inside with everyone whining and fighting and being bored. Yes, they went outside to play, but if you have more than one child less than just a few years apart in age, you know that drama ensues.

Where am I going with this?

I dealt with post-partum depression after the birth of my oldest child. After the triplets were born, I was too busy to be depressed. But that changed. They went to preschool and my depression returned.

A Gallup poll conducted back in 2012 (I cannot find an updated one), shared that among moms, 41 percent of those who were stay-at-home moms were depressed as compared to working moms at 17 percent. The lower income families with stay at home moms were the most commonly depressed.

How does one feel so alone when she is in fact not alone?

It happens. And I was among the 41 percent. It’s funny that the poll was conducted in 2012 because that was probably the year I felt the absolute worst.

Fall and winter have always been difficult. And I so longed for fresh air and a chance to have sunlight hit my face. In all seriousness, vitamin D produced by the sun is super important in combatting depression. And let’s face it, the months of December through February are the grayest of gray.

And then there is spring.

So how do you get out of that season of darkness? Is waiting for the actual season of spring the answer?

Yes and no.

Once March blows through and gets to the end of the month, the sun begins to peek through again. And getting outside is easier. Sometimes just sitting next to a window with the sun hitting your face is great, too. Going for a walk with or without kids is easier. Meeting up with friends for playdates or coffee is less likely to be cancelled because of bad roads or little Johnny’s fever and head cold.

I encourage moms (and dads) facing this issue, to use spring as a spring board, so to speak. Make a commitment to taking care of your emotional health now and stick with it. If your sadness is seasonal, that is absolutely normal. But honestly, it doesn’t have to be. Don’t be afraid to seek counseling if needed. Many counselors (even locally) offer Skype sessions and phone sessions to accommodate folks stuck inside. Talk to your medical provider if you feel like you just can’t go onward. Don’t let the winter blues turn into years of ignored and deepening depression.

Keep yourself on track with outdoor walking or activities. Studies vary on how long it takes to form a habit. An online search came up with anywhere from two to eight months to keep a routine fixed in your mentality. So why not start now? By the time winter rolls around again, you will have a better approach to handling the blues.

Lastly, I do not want to overlook the vital piece of the puzzle that helped me through those years. Prayer and faith have always been my personal foundation. Because of my depression and all of its darkness I had faced, I have made Psalm 40:1-2 my life verses: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

¯¯¯

Tabitha Goodling is a correspondent for the Lewistown Sentinel and Juniata Valley Family.

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