As 2020 wraps up and as we patiently wait for 2021 to begin, we have one final thing to survive: the holiday season. For many, the holiday season is a joyful time of year. For many, this season is a struggle. Seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a mood disorder that affects people with depressive symptoms that occur at the same time each year, most commonly in winter. Many of our loved ones may experience this battle with mental health, and your support and encouragement can play an important role in their recovery. Here are some ways you can help your loved ones.
1. Recognize symptoms.
Many of us may have friends and family battling SAD, so it is important that we recognize symptoms. Seasonal depression is a sub-type of depression. Some of symptoms include:
- Social Withdrawal
- Weight gain or loss
- Sluggish Movements
- Increased sleep
2. Check up on your loved ones.
People who have SAD may feel isolated or alone during these times. Reaching out to your friends and family can help them feel a bit better. Ask them to hang out, go for a walk, or grab a coffee. Any of these small activities can make anyone feel less left out. Outdoor activities are great and should be a go-to because exposure to light can help keep SAD at bay. Keep in mind what your friend enjoys doing, and encourage them to get out of the house with you.
3. Be a compassionate listener.
Lots of people can find it hard to open up about how they feel, especially when they are experience SAD. One of the ways you can help your loved one is by letting them know that you are there for them. Tell them that it is okay to talk about what they are experiencing, but don't force them to talk if they're clearly uncomfortable. If and when your friend chooses to open up, be an active listener. Don't be critical of their emotions, and consider their feelings when you try to give advice. Remember that you are their friend and are there to support them through this tough time. SAD affects everyone in different ways, and each person may need a different type of support. Always ask them how you can help.
4. Encourage your friend to seek professional help.
A big step in fighting against any mental illness is recognizing it and knowing when one should get help. As much as we all wish we could, we can't just magically make mental illness disappear. As a result, you should encourage them to get medical help. Depression is hard to deal with, but it is treatable. It is important to keep in mind that there are trained professionals that can help our friends and family. SAD can make it hard for someone to seek help because making an appointment may seem daunting to them. You can suggest making an appointment, or you can even help them make an appointment. Offer to tag along with your friend so that they don't have to go alone. This may even make them more comfortable about going. Remind them that this is a problem that can be solved in time and that professionals are there to help.
5. Support their treatment.
As a friend, one of the most important ways to help someone with SAD is to show them your unconditional love and support. Be compassionate and patient during their treatment process. Treatments for SAD include light therapy, antidepressants, and chronotherapy, which means to go to bed at a later time each night to regulate sleep. Help your loved one stay on schedule with any treatment prescribed, and help them in any way they may need. Simple tasks may be difficult for them to complete, so you can offer to assist your loved one at home as well. Offering to help out with small chores may take away some of their stress.
6. Look after yourself.
Finally, the last way to help the people in your life who are battling Seasonal Depression is to look after yourself. Your family and friends need you. They need you to be okay as well. It's vital to set boundaries and to be there for yourself first. Think about it: your friends wouldn't want you to ignore your own mental health and not take care of yourself. Honest communication with your loved ones is necessary. Make sure that they know how you are feeling, too. A lot of the time, we want to fix the problems other's issues, we can't control someone else's depression. We can control what we do for ourselves. You are not in any way betraying your depressed friend or family member by turning to others for support. It is just as important for you to stay healthy as it is for the depressed person to receive treatment.