Winter Stress, or Something More?

By on January 29, 2012

Note: Remember, I am not a physician or mental health professional, so if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, always consult a professional before beginning a treatment plan. If you are already on a treatment plan for depression, consult your provider before altering or adding to your treatment. The information below should not be treated as medical advice.

With the holiday hubbub now weeks behind us, everyone is settling back into life in the fast lane. School, work, activities, and yes — stress — are back in business.

Winter can be tough enough with its long nights and cold weather without bringing stress and mental health troubles into the picture. Here is how to tell whether your feelings of stress and worry are a natural and healthy reaction to life events and an over-burdened schedule or a warning sign that you need help.

Symptoms of Depression

There are several signs of depression that you should not ignore. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, consider seeking the help of a counselor or health professional to get back on track and feeling great.

Persistent negative feelings about yourself or life in general. These may include persistent feelings of hopelessness, despair, worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, or self-hate.

Loss of interest or unusual fatigue or sleepiness. Failing to enjoy activities you formerly enjoyed or appreciated may indicate depression if it continues for more than a few weeks. Unusual feelings of fatigue or excessive sleepiness may also indicate depressive symptoms if there is no medical cause or interference with sleep to blame.

Anxiety, irritability, and uncontrollable emotions. Feeling like life is a roller coaster or that your mood is unpredictable and volatile for a few weeks may indicate that something is out of balance mentally and emotionally. Similarly, if you have been experiencing high levels of anxiety and irritability for more than a few weeks, you should discuss this with your doctor.

Unusual changes in weight or appetite. Sudden significant weight loss or gain, loss of appetite, or other persistent and significant changes in weight or appetite may signal depression or another health issue and should be evaluated by a professional.

Thoughts of death or suicide. These are perhaps the most dramatic symptoms of depression, but if you find your thoughts turning to death and dying inappropriately or consistently, or if you are thinking about hurting or killing yourself or others, seek help for depression immediately.

What to Do About Depressive Symptoms

Not everyone who is sad, tired, or irritable is experiencing depression or another mental health problem. In most cases, periods of fluctuating emotions can be natural and healthy ways of dealing with difficult life events, daily stress, and the ups and downs of everyday life. If your feelings last longer than two weeks or if the seriousness of your symptoms alarm you, consult a mental health professional or counselor. Consider calling a hot-line for free advice, talk to a friend, write a letter to a loved one, or take some personal time off work to focus on getting yourself back to normal.

If you don’t believe you have depressive symptoms or if even if you do, one of the best methods of self-treatment (although not always a replacement for professional evaluation and assistance) is to actively try to improve your life.

Get some exercise, go out with friends, write in a journal, take a walk to work through your thoughts, talk to a loved one about your feelings, try something new, or do other activities you enjoy. You may find that with a commitment to these activities and to addressing the possible cause for your depression that symptoms start to fade or disappear altogether.

Whatever ails you, paying attention to the signs of your physical and mental health will allow you to seek help when needed and to prevent further harm. So take advantage of this winter – and the time of New Year’s Resolutions! – to vow to take care of yourself and beat winter stress and even depressive symptoms for good.

Originally posted on Cleveland Heights Patch.

About Katie BrindAmour

Katie Brind'Amour, MS, is a Certified Health Education Specialist and wannabe wine aficionado. She enjoys blogging for and is painstakingly chipping away at her PhD in Health Services Management and Policy. She's looking forward to a an exciting and healthier 2013 for herself and her loved ones!

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Winter Stress, or Something More?