Submitted by Kaiser Permanente

Do the rainy, dark days of winter make you want to stay in bed? You’re not alone. During our gloomy Pacific Northwest winters, we get less of the mood-boosting help of sunlight, which may leave us tired or feeling down. But if you are struggling with accomplishing simple tasks, missing work or increased feelings of sadness, you could be experiencing something more than just the winter blues – you could be experiencing clinical depression.

More than 300 million people worldwide experience depression. Depression can affect anyone regardless of age, culture or lifestyle. Many factors can impact mental health including medical illness, environment, challenging life events and memories. There are often multiple causes, but it is not anyone’s fault.   

Depression can look and feel different for each individual, but generally includes feelings of sadness, tearfulness, guilt, anxiety, hopelessness or increased irritability that affects daily life activities. People experiencing depression might experience tiredness or low energy and might sleep or eat too much or too little.  

Depression can cause problems focusing, making decisions or remembering and can cause a loss of pleasure in activities a person usually enjoys. Some people experiencing depression may have a feeling that life is not worth living or could have thoughts of suicide. If you aren’t sure if your symptoms are depression, try using an online tool like this one to assess.

For some people, practicing self-care through things like meditation and exercise can help ease symptoms of depression. Others may need professional support, which can include counseling, medication or a combination of both. No matter what your particular situation may be, it is important to know that help is available, and it is okay to reach out and ask for help. Your primary care doctor can help diagnose and treat your symptoms. You may also be referred to a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker.

Photo courtesy: Kaiser Permanente

Some people find building resilience as a way of coping with or minimizing depression. To build resilience you can strengthen your support network and moderate your responses to stressful situations. Some things you can do include:
• Build a support network of people you trust and be willing to ask for help
• Be forgiving of your mistakes. Be kind to yourself
• Look for the positive in situations
• Find positive approaches to stressful situations
• Exercise, get the right amount of sleep and eat well

Many people avoid talking about depression and getting treatment because of cultural stigma. But it is important to understand that you are not alone and confidential assistance is available. The results of a 2017 national poll showed that most people are understanding, accepting and supportive of others with mental health issues. 89% of respondents said they understood that mental health conditions can affect anyone, and 70% said they would be comfortable offering support to someone who was struggling.  

If you think you could be experiencing clinical depression, talk to your health care clinician about your symptoms. If you’re experiencing a crisis, reach out to a mental health helpline. Take heart — you’re not alone.

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