The busyness of the holidays has somewhat subsided, and with cold, short days in the coming weeks, many people may begin to feel their moods changing with the season. Winter blues and seasonal depression are very common this time of year, but according to Jenny Filush, a licensed counselor and bereavement coordinator with Hospice Advantage, it is important to remember that there are different ways to combat holiday stress and depression.
“It’s important to remember that you do not have to be grieving or have had a loss to experience holiday or winter blues,” Filush says. “It’s normal to feel gloomier when it is cold and dark when you arrive home from work. It is easy to slip into sweats and eat comfort food. You may be much more tempted to be sedentary and settle in, instead of being active. Often, not being active and not eating healthy food can lower self-esteem, which can further lower your mood. Once you become inactive it begins a cycle of depression that is sometimes difficult to break.
“When it comes to seasonal depression, it is important to identify a support system and realize that you are not alone,” Filush explains. “Out of fear, many people do not reach out for help and that is when depression can worsen. Exercise is a great way to combat seasonal depression, and I encourage many individuals to find a fitness center or activity that is comfortable for them.” Filush explains that when people identify support—whether that is through friends, a support group, or even attending a group class at the gym—they develop an accountability system and an outlet to share their feelings. “A growing problem in our culture is that people struggle to ask for help because if they do, they think that there is something wrong with them,” Filush says. “It is so important to remember that there is more strength in being able to ask for support than there is from avoiding it. Whether that is through a support group, meeting with a friend to walk each week, or joining a gym, asking for help is a great step toward healing and health.”
Adrian Woodson, a certified personal trainer and fitness floor coordinator at HealthPlus, explains that there are simple steps that people can take to become more active, even individuals who are not comfortable in a gym environment.
“Don’t try to conquer the world in your first week at the gym,” Woodson explains. “Starting simple and being consistent are critical to making a healthy lifestyle change. There are many emotional benefits to becoming more active: reducing stress and anxiety, increasing self-esteem, changing your perception of yourself, and simply feeling better, are all results of becoming more active. When you feel better, your quality of life improves and that can help individuals to overcome seasonal depression.
“During the holidays, I typically see clients become less consistent at the gym and sometimes the financial and emotional stress of the holidays can begin to weigh people down,” Woodson says. “As the holidays are coming to an end, this is the perfect time to start the new year on a healthy note. If you’re thinking about getting more active—don’t wait—start moving today. Go for a walk with a friend or take your dog to the park. Even a walk around the block can shock the body after a long sedentary period; and something that simple can greatly improve your mood.”
Woodson also explains that gyms can be intimidating and sometimes fear is what keeps people away. “I think something that sets HealthPlus apart is that we always have a certified trainer on-site to assist members with any questions they may have,” Woodson says. “We offer initial fitness assessments, in addition to follow-up assessments at three, six, nine and 12-month increments.
“At HealthPlus, we believe that fitness truly is medicine, and we have staff who are available to provide members a safe and enjoyable experience, whether they are battling seasonal depression, self-esteem issues, stress or various physical conditions.”
Benefits of Regular Activity:
Most experts agree that as a minimum, adults need at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days a week. But you do not have to exercise 30 minutes at one time for it to be beneficial. You can break up that 30 minutes into three 10-minute intervals each day. Walking at a brisk pace, swimming, bicycling or using a stationary bike, jogging, or using machines such as treadmills and elliptical trainers provide a good aerobic workout. Find an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your daily routine.