MAINE, USA — If you find yourself falling into a slump this time of year, you are not alone. There is actually a name for it: The winter blues.
Here in Maine, folks are particularly susceptible to these feelings of sadness during the winter because the days are shorter, and sunshine can be hard to come by.
Those at Maine's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness say it's important to note there's a difference between the winter blues and a mental health diagnosis known as major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern, which was formerly known as seasonal affective disorder.
"It's normal for anyone in Maine to experience the winter blues, you know, feeling lethargic, feeling a general sadness in the winter months," River Martin said. Martin is the community support manager for NAMI Maine.
"But when it gets to a point where you feel like your symptoms are not manageable, you start to see changes in your daily routines ... that's when you might want to talk to your about the possibility of having a major depressive disorder or the seasonal problem."
Martin said things like oversleeping, overeating, or having an overall sense of hopelessness are other indicators there might be something more serious going on.
On top of day-to-day stressors, Martin said the ongoing pandemic is definitely playing a role as well.
"I think that we often don't take into account that we're living through a collective trauma," Martin said. "The pandemic brings with it uncertainty every single day and that on top of the seasonal change, it's a lot. It's a perfect storm."
Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to help boost your mood.
Martin suggests getting outside, whether it be for a walk or some fresh air. If you're working from home or in an office with windows, move your desk closer to them. There are also light boxes you can buy that mimic actual sunlight. He also suggests making an appointment with your therapist or scheduling an activity to look forward to.
However, the simplest adjustment you can make is to focus on your sleep schedule. Martin said that alone can be extremely beneficial.
"The change in sunlight actually affects our circadian rhythm or our internal clock that regulates our schedules," Martin said. "So, having a strong sleep routine counteracts the seasonal changes that we feel the lack of sunlight."
If you or someone you know is struggling, NAMI Maine has a plethora of resources available. Martin oversees the organization's call center and encourages anyone to join their peer support groups. For more information, click here.