DEAR HARRIETTE: I work from home, which is good -- for the most part. I have flexible hours, and I am pretty efficient. But lately, I have been feeling down and disconnected from other people. I don’t go out much anymore. Now that it’s cold, I often pass on invitations to go to events in the city or to meet up with friends. My world is narrowing, which isn't good, but I also can’t seem to shake it. I make plans to go out, but then cancel. I order in food, and I even have my laundry picked up and delivered. How can I break out of this pattern? I don’t feel happy or motivated at all. -- Self-Exiled
DEAR SELF-EXILED: You may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder, which is a real condition, a form of depression that affects many people as the seasons change. In the fall and winter, those suffering from this disorder often feel helpless and isolated. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms include: feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed; having low energy; experiencing changes in your appetite or weight; feeling sluggish or agitated; having difficulty concentrating; feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty; or having frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in a consistent way, it is time to go to the doctor to get help. If your symptoms are mild, doctors say that light therapy can be helpful. Literally going outside when the sun is shining can brighten your spirits. Psychotherapy can also support you during this difficult time.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)