Commonly referred to as “winter blues,” seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a subtype of major depressive disorder, explains licensed psychotherapist Tandrea Tarver-Brooks. It happens when seasonal transitions trigger shifts in mood and affects an individual’s ability to operate. Although probably the most outstanding cases show up within the colder months, seasonal depression can occur at any time of yr, Tarver-Brooks says.
Meanwhile, many individuals find holiday gatherings and customs trigger grief reasonably than comfort. “Holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays function ‘memories frozen in time’ and should worsen symptoms of grief by increasing feelings of uncertainty and loneliness,” says Tarver-Brooks. “When grief coexists with SAD symptoms, a person’s ‘blues’ can be reignited, making it way more difficult to finish day-to-day tasks and attend to basic needs.”
As a somatic practitioner primarily focused on breathwork—which I’ve used to assist hundreds of individuals, from Fortune 100 executives to kids in juvenile detention centers—I’ve found that certain somatic techniques may also help to handle the emotions surfacing within the body when the symptoms of grief and seasonal depression intertwine.
What is a somatic practice? It’s a tool to handle physical manifestations of emotional states within the body. Here are three that I like to recommend specifically to create more moments of calm and groundedness as you approach every day, sooner or later at a time.
Three practices you need to use while navigating seasonal depression and grief
1. Morning oceanic breath
Starting your day with soothing, grounding breaths may also help decrease overthinking. An improved mind-body connection may also help encourage the completion of each day routines that grow to be more difficult if you’re experiencing depression and grief, like making the bed, having a shower, or brushing your teeth.
The oceanic breath is a beginner-friendly breathwork pattern that seems like its name. To do that, start with the mouth wide open.
Inhale through the mouth slowly, evoking elongated breaths. Feel your chest and diaphragm rise on the inhale. Then exhale out of the mouth, feeling your ribcage hug your stomach as you empty the lungs.
If you’re feeling comfortable doing so, you may close your eyes and position your body lying down or sitting up in the course of the practice. Start with a time that feels achievable for you, whether that’s one minute, five minutes, or 10 minutes.
Know that it’s normal for tasks and to-dos to return to mind as you start to breathe. Be gentle along with your mind doing its job (pondering) and compassionately return your focus to your breath.
2. Intentional nasal respiratory with low-impact walking
Walking may be an excellent tool to feel more present in your body as you process difficult emotions. Coupling a slow-paced walk with intentional nasal respiratory is a practice that may help “create extra space” in your mind, and the situations it desires to process, by focusing attention as an alternative on movement and deeper inhales and exhales.
While taking a stroll, begin to note your regular respiratory pattern. Extend your inhale and exhale by just a few more seconds than what comes naturally. Notice how your body feels as you decelerate and deepen your inhales and lengthen your exhales with more intention.
3. Nurturing self-touch
Touch can elicit the brain’s “feeling protected and cozy” response.
If a particular area of the body feels tense or is at unease, gently rub that area in a circular motion (clockwise then counter-clockwise). Allow your body to sink into whatever surface is supporting you while allowing tension within the face, shoulders, and lower body to melt away.
To evoke additional feelings of safety, swaddle yourself with a blanket after this practice or cover yourself with a weighted blanket.
Note: Grief can show up within the body otherwise for everybody, but commonly manifests within the chest (heart space) and stomach area.