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The “winter blahs” are real — Does feeling less energetic or wanting to sleep and sometimes eat more this time of year sound familiar? Our bodies could be reacting to receiving less sunlight but what does it mean if you’ve been feeling this way for a long time? Have you ever wondered if you might be depressed?

Mental Health Awareness week is here and with winter a not so distant memory, it is a timely reminder that heading into the warmer months is not just about getting your physical health back on track.

“Whether we realise it or not, we are constantly impacted by things going on around us, which truly affect the way we feel,” explains Dr. Monika Roots, Teladoc’s Senior Medical Director of Behavioral Health. “Your mental health affects your ability to carry on your daily living activities and to do them at the best of your ability.”

Depression can be brought on by a variety of factors such as major changes in your life or routine (for example, loss of a loved one or pet, starting college or a new job, moving to a new city, having a baby). Genetics as well as changes in your brain’s chemistry can trigger depression too.

Common types of depression include seasonal affective disorder (SAD), atypical depression, situational depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), psychotic depression, postpartum depression, and bipolar disorder. No matter what causes it, four things are important to know:

  1. You didn’t “cause” your depression
  2. You haven’t done anything to “deserve” it
  3. It’s more common than you may think (1 in 6 people have experienced it at least once)
  4. Depression can be treated

Signs of depression

Everyone expresses depression in different ways, but here are some common symptoms:

  • Prolonged sadness or feelings of “darkness”
  • Sleeping a lot more or less
  • Eating a lot less or more
  • Feeling unmotivated
  • Not being interested in activities you normally enjoy
  • Wanting to cry a lot; having trouble controlling emotions
  • Loss of focus, inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Making impulsive decisions
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Headaches, unexplained body aches
  • Feeling worthless or guilty; thoughts of death or suicide
  • Not being able to “snap out of it!"

Effects of depression

Over time depression can affect very important aspects of your life, causing situations such as:

  • deteriorating relationships with family or friends
  • missed opportunities at work or in school
  • academic failure
  • fluctuations in weight
  • loss of a job
  • problems with your physical health

Ways to cope with depression

You have many options to counteract the ways depression affects you emotionally and physically. Try adding a couple of these activities to modify your lifestyle:

  • exercise: the type and duration don’t matter; just do something that you like to do as long as it moves your body
  • meditate: even one minute a day works; try a free meditation app to learn how
  • listen to music: music library apps offer endless styles of music that can uplift you and help change your mood
  • make healthy eating choices: this includes drinking lots of water and avoiding alcohol
  • develop a daily routine: sometimes setting a schedule that allows you to concentrate on only one task at a time helps “give your brain a break”; it also helps you avoid taking on more responsibilities than you can handle
  • practice self-love: when you wake up each day, tell yourself five things you’re thankful for and five things you love about yourself
  • step out of your comfort zone and try new things (if you’re an extrovert, try going to a restaurant or concert alone; if you’re an introvert, try having brunch with a few friends)
  • make time to relax (try taking a hot shower or bath)
  • vent to a close, trusted friend or counselor
  • seek therapy: developing a relationship with someone who won’t judge you and will keep your conversation confidential is a great step toward helping you feel better emotionally, mentally, and physically.

While anyone can experience depression at any time, if you feel as though you’ve been struggling to overcome it, now is a good time to get help. You don’t have to know exactly what’s bothering you, just take that first step and talk with someone.

Mental Health Services for Accuro Members

Accuro offers members with the Specialist plan free access to Mental Health Assist, powered by Teladoc health. Mental Health Assist is designed to break down barriers by providing fast, comprehensive and confidential access to a team of mental health professionals.

Find out more about the service below.

Where to find additional help and support

If you are concerned about the immediate health and safety of yourself or a loved one, call 111.

  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865