Short, dark days plus holidays can lead to difficult feelings; try these pro tips to lighten your mood.
Every year in March and April, Kristy Brecke and Lisa Jensen see an uptick in referrals at their talk therapy and massage therapy practice in Eagan. But it’s not necessarily a spring-thing—it’s often the grip of winter that won’t let go. “It’s starting to get nicer [outside], but they’re still feeling crummy,” Brecke says. Brecke’s advice: “Reach out earlier.”
Or better yet, start combatting the headaches, restlessness and withdrawal that can come hand-in-hand with the dark days of a Minnesota winter before they get too big. “About 50 percent of people are affected by low vitamin D levels in the winter and about 5 percent of the general population has seasonal affective disorder,” says Brecke, a doctor of marriage and family therapy and a licensed professional clinical counselor. “However, research shows that it is as high as 10 percent for Minnesotans.”
Brecke, owner of Dr. Brecke Counseling Group, shares an office with her sister, Jensen, a licensed massage therapist and owner of Life Massage Therapy. The two practices came together in the same space as Integrative Therapy Group in November 2019. Clients can find diagnostic assessment, talk therapy and massage therapy in one location to help them work through mental or physical pain and discomfort.
Brecke and Jensen recommended these tips for avoiding seasonal depression:
1. Layer up and get outside.
Spending time each day walking in fresh air outdoors can do a lot to boost your mood. Feeling more adventurous? Explore a winter sport like skiing or snowshoeing.
2. Soak up extra light.
Brecke starts using her light box each year in mid-September. “I want to get on it right away,” she says.
Light boxes should emit 10,000 BTUs to be effective, and it’s important to talk to a health professional for advice on when and how to use light therapy.
While it doesn’t have the same therapeutic benefits as a light box, an alarm clock that mimics the sun by slowly making your room brighter can also help make mornings easier.
3. Do something just for you.
This time of year can be demanding socially. “People just go, go, go, go,” Jensen says. “When you come into a space for massage, you’re doing something just for you. You feel more loving and giving. It’s another way to take care of yourself.”
Jensen’s massage practice offers an array of modalities, including sessions for acute and chronic pain, cupping and energy work and, yes, relaxation.
No matter how busy your schedule gets, make sure that you’re checking in with your feelings and getting regular “me” time. “Decide what makes you happy and do more of that,” Brecke says.
But if you’re experiencing depression—seasonal or otherwise—and your symptoms are getting in the way of everyday life for two weeks or more, it’s important to seek out help from a licensed professional.
Integrative Therapy Group
1185 Town Center Drive Suite 225, Eagan