By Julie DeLong, A-1 Freeman Moving Group
As exciting as moving long distance
has been, at some point the moving high goes away and you come back to earth with a great big thud. And when re-entry is during the winter months, it can lead to seasonal depression--also known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Particularly if your move has brought you someplace where winter is a real thing--like if you've gone from Texas to Oregon—you need to be prepared for some seasonal anxiety and know how to manage it until the spring thaw.
If you remember anything about high school geography, the further north you go, the less daylight there is in the fall and winter months. The short days seem to go hand in hand with gloomy gray days, so that it seems like the sun never shines for weeks on end. That's when all you want to do is hibernate--stay home, sleep, binge watch movies, and just avoid the world. When you have just moved across the country and are in a new place, and you haven't really settled into a new routine yet, it's much easier to fall into the clutches of seasonal depression. So, here's how you can treat it at home, or some therapies a professional might prescribe if you can't keep it at bay on your own.
One thing--SAD is a real thing--the Mayo Clinic treats it, and the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) includes it. If you feel the symptoms of depression that come with winter months, seek treatment if you've had the symptoms before.
Brighten Your Environment
Phototherapy is the magic bullet for many people with SAD. It's a simple treatment that researchers believe changes your brain chemistry with 30 minutes a day of exposure; There are no real side effects and it's a home remedy, so it is worth a try. You'll need a light box that emits at least 10,000 lux (lux factors in the intensity of the light). Sit by the box--between 16 and 24 inches away--while you drink your morning coffee, not looking directly at the light but with your eyes open. Make sure the box is made specifically for SAD treatment, as it will filter out UV light.
Simple things--higher-watt light bulbs, opening blinds during the day, and sitting by a window at work, if possible--that expose you to more light can have a noticeable benefit. Trim back any tree branches that hang over your house to let in more light, and research installing skylights to let all the light you can into the house.
Take a walk, eat your lunch outside--anything to soak up some weak winter rays. Even a small boost of Vitamin D is good for you and getting outside for a short walk takes care of that as well as getting your heart rate up. Early morning sun--even on cloudy or overcast days--packs more of a wallop than the weak afternoon light, so try to get out to start your day.
Exercise and Socialize
Exercise is the default protocol for helping any kind of depression--it gets the endorphins running, which in turn eases the symptoms of anxiety. If your new home is in an area where winter sports are popular, take up a new hobby--snow skiing, ice skating, even ice fishing. Try to get out and socialize, even if it's just having lunch or coffee with colleagues.
If your SAD continues after you've tried to manage it yourself, please seek a doctor's help. A psychologist or psychiatrist will do a thorough evaluation of your physical and mental health and assess whether your symptoms are really seasonal or the beginnings of a more chronic depression. One of the first questions they'll ask is if any other family members are susceptible to SAD--it is thought to be hereditary. Treatment options may be talk therapy, relaxation or meditation, or possibly a short-term prescription for antidepressants.
Keep in mind that as winter gives way to spring, so will your SAD ease away as the days get longer and warmer. In the meantime, please seek treatment for your SAD so you can enjoy your life in your new home after your long distance move.
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