Up here in the northland, we look forward to many things as the days shorten, the snow falls, and we can find a quiet that only exists this time of year. For some, this brings a mix of enthusiasm for outdoor winter activities and the hidden joy of complaining about the weather. Many may marvel at the beauty found in a Minnesota winter. The intense sunshine of wintery afternoons can make us forget the cold, if even for a moment. We also see some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets of the year. However, the further we are from the equator, the more likely we are to experience mental health consequences of the changing of the seasons.
As many as 3% of the general population suffers from Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD),”a mental health condition triggered by the changing of the seasons.” Like other types of depression, the symptoms may range from mild to severe. For people with Seasonal Pattern Depression, spring can never come fast enough. Symptoms include oversleeping (hypersomnia); overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates; weight gain; and social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”).
Symptoms may be delayed until after the holidays because of how busy we are and the fact that there is much to look forward to. By knowing it can become an issue, we can start earlier with medical attention along with self-help strategies that many have found beneficial. These include spending more time outside during daylight hours, use of a lightbox or lamp that simulates sunlight, increased exercise, and Vitamin D.
For our colleagues, friends, neighbors, and family members who experience symptoms, daily life and work may be more challenging than usual, and as problem solvers, legal professionals may feel guilt or shame because we can’t just think our way out of it. Offices can normalize activities that allow more exposure to light, flexible scheduling, breaks, etc. Everyone will benefit. The November Bench & Bar included an article about seasonal depression and your practice and we can all learn how to support each other. Never underestimate the power of a kind word or thought extended to someone experiencing depression, seasonal or not. You can make a difference.
Regardless of when seasonal or any other types of depression occur, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is here to help legal professionals and their family members. LCL offers free counseling and other resources. 866-525-6466, [email protected], or www.mnlcl.org.