Special to the Recorder
Coping with the winter blues
10 questions with a counselor
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season behind us and the arrival of spring more than a month away, February can seem like a pretty dreary time. Often people have a feeling of malaise in the winter, but when does a sad mood become more than just a case of the winter blahs?
The Christian Theological Seminary Counseling Center provides non-denominational counseling services to individuals, couples, families and children. Resident counselor Mark Graeser noted that while many people report feeling blue in the winter, depression is a condition that knows no seasonal boundaries. Graeser answered some common questions that people have about the winter blues and depression.
Do depression rates rise in the winter?
All mental health diagnostic codes can be qualified by a seasonal factor. Seasons bring back memories and evoke sentiments. A time of year can remind someone of when they lost a loved one, lost a job or experienced some other significant loss. After the holidays, there also can be a sense of feeling let down. People living in northern regions, with less daylight, report more depression.
What other environmental factors can trigger depression besides seasonality?
As a culture, we’ve become lazy. Whereas we used to rely on social interaction to be entertained, technology sometimes takes the place of relationships. People may spend hours watching TV, surfing the Internet or electronic gaming. These types of activities isolate us from others.
How can someone determine whether they’re suffering from depression or just have the winter blahs?
Key indicators include a sense of hopelessness. Individuals may feel powerless to change their situation. They also tend to lose interest in hobbies they once enjoyed and stop engaging in social activities. Christian Theological Seminary Counseling Center conducts screenings to help someone find out whether he or she is depressed.
If someone is feeling lethargic and irritable, what can he try before consulting a counselor?
During the winter, we need to work harder at being social. Studies have shown that moderate amounts of exercise can be as effective as anti-depressants. Eating more balanced meals also will help. Finally, an individual’s religious activities can help him feel better because faith is closely linked to a sense of hope and evokes a sense of power.
How does an individual know when the work is done?
A key indicator of success is when an individual reports feeling less isolated.
What are some signs parents might look for that indicate a child is struggling with depression?
Look for changes in behavior. Perhaps the child is no longer talking as much or his grades are suffering. Other signs may be a change in the child’s friends, a focus on different TV programs or video games and certainly substance abuse. It’s critical that parents not minimize these changes. Underage substance use can make an individual 80 percent more likely to experience substance abuse problems as an adult.
We’ve talked about depression in young people. Is depression a concern for older individuals?
Absolutely. Individuals around the age of 60 often experience depression as they retire, lose some relationships and transition into a new stage in their life. In fact, the highest suicide demographic is men age 85 and older.