Episode 69: Tips to Combat Seasonal Depression with Alyssa Scolari, LPC
Episode 69: Tips to Combat Seasonal Depression with Alyssa Scolari, LPC
Daylight savings time and the decreasing temperatures have some of us feeling blue, but it doesn’t have to be this way! If the lack of sunlight and cold weather have you feeling down, tune in for some tips on how to thrive this winter.
Check out the Light After Trauma website for transcripts, other episodes, Alyssa’s guest appearances, and more at: www.lightaftertrauma.com
Alyssa Scolari [00:23]:
Hey, everybody, welcome back to another episode of the Light After Trauma podcast. This is episode 69, I believe. Wow. It is wild that I have almost 70 episodes out, but I love it. I am loving it. Real quick, I just wanted to ask everybody to bear with me. I’ve been listening back to some of the more recent episodes, especially the solo ones, and the sound is a little bit echoey. And I was aware of it when I first moved into the new home and got a new office. This office is different because it has hardwood floors. So I’ve had to do a lot to try to make the space something that would be very sound absorbent. I am pretty particular about sound quality. So I am aware of it. None of you have said anything because you are all wonderful and amazing human beings, but I notice it and I just wanted to let you know that I’m aware of it.
Alyssa Scolari [01:25]:
I honestly thought that getting blinds in here would really help, but then I noticed in the episode that I recorded last week, it still sounded a little bit echoey. So I am doing everything I can on my end. I even have this sort of like foam sound absorbent, like casing, that’s going around my microphone. So I’m trying to speak directly into that. But I just think it’s going to be a little bit of time before I can buy some more things to fill up this space. We moved a couple months ago, so I do have a rug and all those good things, but I am doing my best. So bear with me for the time being, if this is a little bit echoey.
Alyssa Scolari [02:15]:
Okay, I just want to move right into then saying thank you to those of you who reached out to me on Instagram over the last couple of weeks, it’s been really exciting. I feel like I have so many friends in all different parts of the world. And I love hearing from you and meeting you… Well, e-meeting you, I should say. So thank you. It’s been really exciting. And if you have not done so already, please feel free to go give us a follow on Instagram. My handle is Light After Trauma. It’s just the name of this podcast. We are putting out some good content and feel free to shoot me a DM and say hi. It’s been really fun getting to meet people.
Alyssa Scolari [03:00]:
On that note… Oh no, I’m lying. There’s one more thing that I wanted to say. And that was, if you haven’t done so already, please go leave us a review wherever you like to listen. It would mean so much. It is really helpful in terms of being able to get this content out to more people. The more reviews and ratings that the podcast gets, the more people that it reaches. Basically the more press it gets essentially to put it pointblank. It’s really about the ratings and the reviews, and it’s really important to me to be able to get this content out to as many people as possible because the mental health crisis is real right now. It is probably the worst that I’ve ever seen it to date. The pandemic has so much to do with it and there are just simply not enough therapists to meet the needs of everybody who is searching for help and support and comfort. And it is only continuing to get worse, unfortunately.
Alyssa Scolari [04:15]:
So I just want to make sure that as many people out there are aware that there is some free content. If they’re not able to get into a therapist, if it’s scheduling purposes, if it’s that they can’t find a good therapist, if it’s financial reasons, I want this content to be available for people. So I appreciate this. Thank you in advance for all of the support, as always.
Alyssa Scolari [04:45]:
And speaking of mental health and the need being in increasing demand for services, we are talking today about seasonal depression or the blues or whatever you want to call it. Some people have an issue with calling it depression and I think that’s more because of the stigma surrounding depression, but I mean… I don’t know. Some people call it the blues, the winter blues, whatever it may be. I call it seasonal depression. It is real. It is a very real thing and I actually didn’t think that I struggled with this, but over the last few years, I’ve really started to struggle. And now that daylight savings time has happened, it is getting dark super early and it is cold. Depending on where you’re at… Allison, if you’re over there in San Diego, it might still be sunny and warm, and this might not pertain to you, but it is still getting dark a little bit earlier.
Alyssa Scolari [05:54]:
So whether it’s the darkness that is a little bit depressing for you or whether it is the cold weather that is depressing for you, this is going to be a good episode because I am talking about tips to combat seasonal depression. I think that these tips are really helpful, not just for now, because right now we’re in this place where we have the excitement of the holidays upon us, but after January 1st, really, I feel like those months from like January to March before the warmer weather gets here are really a struggle for people. So these tips are helpful, I think, right now as… basically up until I think it’s December 21st, that it’s just going to keep getting darker earlier and earlier. So it’s helpful for right now, but it’s also helpful for after the holidays, when we’re sort of just waiting for the winter weather to roll around. There really aren’t any holidays. There’s not much going on.
Alyssa Scolari [07:03]:
I’m going to be talking about some of the things that really help me. So I’m going to be talking about a few different products that I use. None of these are advertisements. I am simply letting you know what products I enjoy using.
Alyssa Scolari [07:20]:
The first thing that I think can really help you is using a vitamin D supplement. And again, disclaimer, here, please, please speak to your doctor or your healthcare professional. This is not medical advice. I am not a doctor. So this is simply a suggestion that you might want to consider bringing up with your healthcare professional, with your doctor, your general practitioner, whoever. But vitamin D comes from the sun and that is something that in the wintertime, we tend to lack. I’m even deficient in vitamin D in the summer time, because I don’t go outside as much because I am so prone to getting burned. Even with 100 SPF on, I get burned. So I’m vitamin D deficient all year round and I notice a huge difference.
Alyssa Scolari [08:16]:
Vitamin D comes in, I think, many different things. I think it comes in like gel capsules and then I take it in a liquid form. So I just have like two drops on my tongue every day and it is really, really helpful for me. So during this time of year, when we are getting less sunshine, it is important to make sure that we are not deficient in anything. And that doesn’t just go for vitamin D. That goes for honestly, all of the supplements. I know that for me in the wintertime, for whatever reason, it’s a pattern for me. I tend to be deficient in B12. And B12 when you’re deficient in it can cause lots of anxiety, lots of depression, fatigue, et cetera.
Alyssa Scolari [09:05]:
So it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor, and it is an even better idea to try to get some blood work as well, just to see where you’re allow levels are at. That way you know if it’s something that you need because having those supplements, especially vitamin D, can help get you through the darker colder months. And again, please talk to your doctor or your primary care physician before doing anything that is not medical advice, but just something you should talk to your doctor about.
Alyssa Scolari [09:42]:
The next thing that I have found to be really helpful is avoiding triggering TV shows. I know that the nighttime is when people love to put on the TV. I love to put on the TV too. I am no stranger to television. I love TV, but there are certain shows that I have found that if I start watching at night, especially during the winter and like the fall months when it’s dark by four o’clock, I get really depressed. That includes like My True Crime shows. I was watching… What was I watching? Ugh. I was watching Burn Notice. If you have not watched Burn Notice and you like action-packed, funny… It’s all fictional, but it has Jeffrey Donovan in it and Sharon Gless and Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, some of the most amazing… Jeffrey Donovan is the most amazing actor I have seen. I have no idea why he is not Hollywood’s biggest, most famous celebrity, but I digress.
Alyssa Scolari [10:57]:
Anyway, Burn Notice is one of my favorite shows of all time, but there is violence and it can get a little bit emotional at times. So I cannot watch Burn Notice. In fact, I actually had to… The show is seven seasons and I had to stop watching it in the middle of season seven because I noticed that I was getting like… It was depressing me. I was really getting in my head about the show and that’s a real thing that happens to so many of us. I know I’m not the only one. So be very intentional about the shows that you watch this time of year.
Alyssa Scolari [11:38]:
I personally have been loving, don’t laugh at me, loving The Muppets. If you have Disney+, there is a entire section dedicated to The Muppets and there’s actually like a comedy. I think it’s like a spinoff of The Office. Again, don’t judge me for this, but I have never seen The Office. I’ve seen like bits and pieces. I am more of a Parks and Rec kind of girl, but The Muppets I think is like a spinoff of The Office. Unfortunately, it was canceled after one season, but you need to go and watch that season. It is hysterical and Pepe the King Prawn as the… Oh, he’s my favorite Muppet of all time, please don’t get me started. But that is something for me that is hysterical. It is not triggering. And The Muppets have like, I think they have a bunch of different movies on there too. So we saw a video or a movie with… Well, I think it was Muppets Most Wanted. It is just hysterical and you need to go watch it if you haven’t.
Alyssa Scolari [12:58]:
What I’m trying to say here is I want you to watch shows that are more like that. Doesn’t necessarily need to be The Muppets. You can put on a Disney movie. You can put on really any show. You can put on Friends, you can put on… I mean, really into the older stuff, like some 90 shows I’ve been watching lately or some like early 2000 shows, but be very, very intentional about not watching something that’s going to be super triggering in any way, shape or form. Enough about TV, because honestly I could talk about TV shows all day.
Alyssa Scolari [13:39]:
Another tip that I have found really helpful is the use of candles and diffusers. I have both. So I have a diffuser that I really love and they’re not super expensive. I bought mine on Amazon, I think. And mine has like… It lights up. It turns to all different colors. And I really like putting not so much like a lavender in there. I like the lavender when it’s nighttime, because lavender, I think is supposed to help with relaxation. But when it’s like four, five o’clock and it’s pitch black outside, and I know I have a few more clients or a few more hours of work, or I need to cook dinner, I will pop on maybe like a citrusy scent of some sort. And that will really reenergize me and make me feel a lot better.
Alyssa Scolari [14:36]:
I of course, love candles. I was on the hunt for candles that were a little bit cleaner, that didn’t have so many paraffins in them, because I was getting a ton of headaches from the candles that I… This particular brand, I’m not going to out them, but I was using this particular brand of candles. They’re a very popular company and I just found that I was getting headaches all the time. So I had to stop using them for a while, but I discovered this one company… What is it called? I think it’s called 1803. They’re on Instagram. You can go look them up and they have a website. I actually bought a couple candles that they had in a local place near me, but their candles are amazing. They smell so great that… I was actually burning one last night and when I woke up this morning… I blew it out before I went to bed. When I woke up this morning, my house still smelled like that candle. I think the name of the candle is Cookies for St. Nick. And yes, I’ve already broken out the Christmas candles. I mean, I have. I absolutely.
Alyssa Scolari [15:53]:
So candles, really important, but try to get ones that have some cleaner ingredients. I think that the 1803 company, their candles can be in my opinion, a bit on the pricier side, but nothing that you… I don’t think you would pay anything more or less for a candle that you would get really anywhere else. The only other place I’ve seen candles that are cheaper, that have clean ingredients are HomeGoods. They’re kind of hard to find, but if you go search at HomeGoods, you can find a great candle for like 12 bucks. So if you’re concerned about finances, go home take at HomeGoods. HomeGoods has some really good candles. And of course you can always grab a diffuser, essential oils, they last forever and they smell amazing.
Alyssa Scolari [16:43]:
Now, this next tip is one of my favorites because this is truly what gets me through the darker and colder days. And that is the use of lighting. I touched on this a little bit with the candles, but lighting is so important. Like when it gets dark at four o’clock, the melatonin starts to kick in in our brain. And the melatonin is sending that signal. Melatonin is associated with sleep. So when it’s dark out by four or five o’clock, we’re ready for bed at four or five o’clock because that melatonin is there. Now serotonin is associated with wakefulness. So we want to increase those levels of serotonin once it starts to get dark out and ways that you can do that are with lighting. That’s one of the reasons why they say, don’t look at your phone right before you go to bed at night, because the light from your phone can actually increase the serotonin levels and decrease the melatonin levels, causing you to stay awake for longer. So this is very, very important.
Alyssa Scolari [17:58]:
One of the things that I love is decorating. And yes, I know there’s this big, huge debate about when people should decorate for Christmas. I feel like it’s been a forever debate. I feel like every year, the celebration of Christmas gets earlier and earlier, and at this point it’s like people are celebrating in August. Okay, I get it for me. When it’s daylight savings time, I’m ready to decorate for Christmas. And that has nothing to do with rushing Thanksgiving or with not really paying attention to Thanksgiving. That’s not it at all. The Christmas decorations, all of the lights truly help me to feel better. They give me the serotonin that I need to continue to get through. My house feels so much sadder when I look around and it’s 5:00 PM and I’ve still got three more hours worth of work to do and all I have is a basic light from the ceiling fan. It saddens me. It truly does.
Alyssa Scolari [19:13]:
But when my house is decorated to the nines, and I’m telling you, do not be ashamed of decorating your house early. When my house is decorated, I feel so much better. I feel cozier, happier. So do not be ashamed. Do not let people tell you that you can’t decorate before Thanksgiving. Light your house up like a goddamn Christmas tree. I’m telling you, my house is fucking lit. It is a goddamn Christmas tree in here and I am not sorry about it because it keeps me from feeling super depressed.
Alyssa Scolari [19:47]:
There are some other sources of lighting that I’ve also found really. So those Himalayan salt lamps, I’m pretty sure you could grab one on Amazon. I don’t believe they’re overly expensive. I think it kind of depends on what you get, but I don’t believe that they’re overly pricey. So they have amazing benefits. Himalayan salt lamps are meant to cleanse and deodorize and purify the air. And they’re actually also really good for allergies and asthma. They can help with blood flow. They can help with your energy levels. They can help with concentration and really just enhance your overall mood. Those things are the bomb. Highly recommend.
Alyssa Scolari [20:35]:
Other things you can do with lighting. I actually just bought some curtain lights. They were like 10 bucks at Target, but I’m going to hang them in my office here because as I’m recording this, it is 4:30 and it’s already pretty much getting dark out. So I’m going to actually hang these curtain lights in my office. They just look very dreamy and very peaceful to me and very cozy and it helps me. I know it can help you too, because light is so, so important for our mental health. That’s my favorite. That’s lighting. There are so many different things you can do with lighting. Please have fun with it. It is the best and do not be afraid to decorate your whole house for the holidays anytime you want. If you want to leave your Christmas tree up all year, leave your Christmas tree up all year. Do what makes you happy.
Alyssa Scolari [21:35]:
Next is, I’ve also found that it’s really helpful to change up my exercise routine, and it might be helpful for you to do the same. What I mean by changing up your exercise routine, I mean changing up the time that you do it. If you’re somebody who typically exercises in the morning, maybe try to exercise at night. If you are exercising at night, then you are releasing endorphins, which is going to help keep that seasonal depression away, pretty plain and simple. Again, that is easier said than done, of course, but even if you work out two days a week, if you can take one of those workouts and move it to the evening, that will help so, so much. That’s just the thought and that’s something that I have found to be really helpful.
Alyssa Scolari [22:25]:
Now, the next thing is, and this is a hard one, taking breaks from social media in particular at night. Again, the phone with the lighting, it’s not necessarily the right kind of lighting that we want when it gets dark out. What happens is it is dark by 5:00, you are sitting on the couch, just got done a long day at work and you’re scrolling through a TikTok or Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. And you’re seeing everyone else’s posts and all of their highlight reels and you’re in the comparison game. So it’s dark, it’s cold, it’s gloomy. And here you are on social media, watching other people have the time of their lives, or at least that’s what they’re portraying on social media. That’s not really going to boost your move. That’s going to instead make your brain go, “Oh, well look at them. Wherever they are in the world, they still have light. And they did this today and they did that today. And here I am sitting on my couch doing nothing.” It is so depressing.
Alyssa Scolari [23:48]:
I have really come a long way in terms of getting my ass off of social media at night, because it makes me so sad. Those same content creators that I love during the day make me sad night because I’m sort of just hanging out and vibing and it’s dark, but they’re just maybe across the world where it’s sunny and they’re doing this and doing that. And there are people who are still at the beach and I’m just like, “Oh, well, isn’t my life sad.” And again, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way because a lot of my clients report this as well. So try to be very intentional about your social media usage at night. I know it’s difficult because social media is such a habit for us, including myself, but try doing other things like things that are more hands-on so that you don’t find yourself just like two hours into scrolling TikTok.
Alyssa Scolari [24:53]:
Again, things that help for me are I really enjoy puzzling. I am loving puzzles and I get puzzles that are super vibrant in color. I do all of the Thomas Kinkade Disney Puzzles. They’re like the 1,000-piece ones, and then what I do is I actually save the puzzle. I’ll put an adhesive backing on it and then I’ll frame it. It’s just something that’s really fun for me to do, but I also enjoy… You can paint if you enjoy painting. I love the paint by numbers. If you Google paint by numbers, there’s websites that come up and there are adult paint by numbers kits. I love them because I’m not very creative. And when it comes to painting, I really like a structure of being able to color in the lines and it’s just fun. It’s just a lot of fun to do. And I’m not really in my head when I’m doing it. I’m sort of I’m concentrating and it just helps keep me off social media and gives me something productive and I think exciting to do.
Alyssa Scolari [26:01]:
So feel free to look up any of those things, puzzles, painting, knitting. Honestly, I had a knitting phase. I’m not that good at it. But I had a knitting phase and it really did help me.
Alyssa Scolari [26:18]:
The last few things are being intentional about who you talk to after sunset. So what I mean by this is, especially if you are a trauma survivor who has people in your life that might be triggering to you, people that you have contact with, but the relationship is a little strained for whatever reason. It might not be the best idea to pick up the phone when they call after dark. And that’s likely, or that’s because you can be triggered by them and we don’t want to get triggered. Being dark, so early and cold is already… It’s hard enough. So you do not want to then have to deal with possibly being triggered on top of it. So be mindful about who you’re talking to. If you know that you are going to be getting a call from somebody, give them a call during the day if you can when it’s still light out. That way by the time the evening comes, you have completely enveloped yourself in absolute safety.
Alyssa Scolari [27:26]:
And then another thing that I have found really helpful are plants. I’ve talked about plants on my social media and I don’t know if I’ve talked about plants on the podcast, but I am a huge plant lover and I have a lot of indoor plants, I guess a lot. How many do I have? Oh, I think I actually have like 11. Yeah, no, that’s a lot. All right, I’m officially a plant lover and a plant mom to 11 beautiful plants. And I have these grow lights. Again, you can get them on Amazon. They’re called grow lights and you can clip them to the side of a desk or the side of a table, or you can get ones that stand up. I love having them because I have something that I have to take care of.
Alyssa Scolari [28:17]:
So even on those nights when I’m feeling really depressed and really lonely, I know that I have to keep myself safe because I’ve got to keep my plants safe and healthy and I’ve got to nurture them. I’ve got to make sure that they are getting water and food and that I am dusting their leaves. Yes, that is a thing my fellow plant lovers will know. And it might sound and silly, but I really care about my plants because I feel like my plants have greatly increased my… Well, they haven’t. I feel like my plants have actually greatly reduced my levels of depression and they also really help to detoxify the air around me. They’re a great visual for me and I care about them and I get so excited when I see them doing really well. I actually was gifted and orchid from a friend about a month ago. And I woke up today and saw like a little root that was starting to grow and I got so excited. So it’s the little things. It’s so helpful for me.
Alyssa Scolari [29:31]:
And it doesn’t have to be a plant. It could be really any animal. It also could be a fish. If you are looking for an animal that is pretty low commitment and you’re not really a plant person, you don’t really want a dog, you don’t really want a cat and you need something that’s pretty low commitment, low maintenance, go buy a betta fish. When you walk into a PetSmart or a Petco, how many of those betta fish are sitting in those little tiny, four-ounce containers with nowhere to swim? They look so sad. Go get yourself a betta fish. They’re colorful. They’re fun. They’re easy to take care of. They’re not going to take up a whole ton of your time and it is something for you to nurture and love. And it’s something for you to come home to. That is really helpful.
Alyssa Scolari [30:22]:
So then the last two things are drink tea if you are not a tea drinker. The warmth is really, really helpful and also there’s tons of wonderful herbal tea out there that can really do a lot for your mood. So if you’re not a tea drinker, I’m sure you can find a tea out there for you. If you are a tea drinker, stock up on some tea this winter, give yourself some options.
Alyssa Scolari [30:50]:
And then lastly, don’t forget to stay hydrated. Sometimes depression and fatigue and exhaustion can be dehydration. Again, I’m not saying depression is directly linked to dehydration, but sometimes we can feel really sad and just fatigued and off and it might actually be dehydration. When it gets colder, we don’t want to drink as much because well it’s cold and we don’t feel as thirsty, but we actually need water more than never in the cold weather because it dries us out. And especially the heat, having the heat on in your home, all that heat dries you out as well. So it is so important to stay hydrated, whether that’s through tea, whether that’s water. Whatever it is you may like, make sure that you are staying hydrated.
Alyssa Scolari [31:42]:
All of these things have helped me so much and will get me through this season of cold and darkness. Especially after the holidays, I struggle the most. I would say January, February, March are the hardest months for me. Actually, part of the reason why I picked a wedding date in March is because March is sort of just like that cold month where we’re all ready for the spring. And I was like, “Oh, I need something to celebrate this month.” That’s part of why we picked March for our wedding date, but that’s neither here nor there.
Alyssa Scolari [32:20]:
I hope that these tips help you as… I cannot speak today. I hope that these tips helped you as much as they have helped me. And if you have any other thoughts or questions or comments, you can feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com. I am wishing you all a wonderful rest of your week, take care, and I am holding you all in the light.
Alyssa Scolari [32:51]:
Thanks for listening, everyone. For more information, please head over to lightaftertrauma.com or you can also follow us on social media. On Instagram we are @lightaftertrauma and on Twitter it is @lightafterpod. Lastly, please head over to patreon.com/lightaftertrauma to support our show. We are asking for $5 a month, which is the equivalent to a cup of coffee at Starbucks. So please head on over. Again, that’s patreon.com/lightaftertrauma. Thank you and we appreciate your support.