For many of us, the arrival of the winter months signals both the cheeriness of the holidays and the cold, dreary weather that accompanies them.
It’s, of course, completely normal to not feel great as you find yourself cooped up indoors without being exposed to the life-giving sunlight that can be your strongest motivator to wake up in the morning.
But sometimes that sadness can hit us a little too hard, and suddenly we’re not doing the things we love as often as we used to or feel hopeless about our future.
If this is the case, you may be under a spell of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Read on to learn what SAD is, and how to get over it to feel at your best, whether while working remotely or in a corporate office.
How To Know If You Have SAD?
Most of the time, SAD symptoms emerge during the fall and winter and tend to go away as the weather warms up in the spring and summer. It typically starts relatively mild but continues to progress as the cold season continues.
A few different things can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder. Often, because the winter typically brings a decrease in the amount of sunlight, this increased darkness may affect our circadian rhythm, our body’s internal clock, which may trigger feelings of depression.
A reduction in the secretion of brain chemicals like serotonin and melatonin also plays a significant role, as these neurotransmitters are regulating both your mood and sleep patterns.
Some symptoms of SAD include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low energy
- Decreased interest in activities you usually enjoy
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Excessive sleeping
- Cravings for carbohydrates
- Overeating, and consequently weight gain
If these symptoms apply to you, try out the following tips to help you feel more like yourself during the winter months.
Here Are The Best Ways To Deal With The Winter Blues
1. Use Light Therapy
It may seem silly, but because light can be scarce during the colder months in the northern hemisphere, bright light therapy can be an incredibly effective way to treat SAD.
This practice typically includes using a device that contains white fluorescent tubes that radiate up to 10,000 lux of light.
The individual then sits in front of the light therapy box and soaks it in for about 30 minutes. Light therapy is generally safe for most people, but it might be harmful to people with retinal damage or diabetes.
Always consult your physician before trying this out. Also, prepare to use this kind of device for at least a couple of weeks to really feel the positive effects. Invest in a high-quality SAD lamp because it’s a great companion to have during the winter months.
You can get a good model online for around $40, so it’s a great deal, as scientific studies show that it works.
2. Get More Exercise
It seems as though exercise is a recommendation for every health issue out there, but that’s for a good reason.
Physical activity levels are bound to decrease during the winter, especially if you live somewhere where it snows. All of this can aggravate the feelings of sluggishness caused by SAD.
To combat this:
- Consider taking up an indoor form of exercise such as yoga, Pilates, or, if possible, walking on a treadmill (as cardio exercise is most effective for treating feelings of depression).
- If you live in a snowy region, consider braving the cold and going snowboarding or skiing for a change of pace.
- Try out an evening stretching (or bedtime yoga) routine. By moving around and relaxing your body right before going to bed, you’ll sleep much deeper and we all know how important sleep is for mental health.
3. Eat A Balanced Diet
Paired with exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet can significantly benefit your mental well-being.
Not that you shouldn’t indulge in your comfort foods sometimes, since that can make you feel good too (in the short term).
As long as you’re getting your protein, healthy fats, and carbs in every meal, you should notice yourself feeling much better mentally as well.
Another thing you might want to tack onto your diet is a Vitamin D supplement. It can be challenging to get an appropriate amount from your food alone, and due to the lack of sunlight, you may be deficient anyway (especially if your skin has a darker tone).
Again, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any course of supplements. If you want to balance your mood, you should explore a low glycemic index diet.
It’s a diet where you eat mostly low-sugar foods, which helps you decrease levels of inflammation in your body, so you feel much better overall.
4. Get Some Social Stimulation
You may not want to commit to any social gatherings when it’s freezing outside.
But by making a point of getting some regular social stimulation, you’ll be motivated to get out of your comfort zone and out of your head.
Schedule an outing with a friend to get coffee or do something physical like a hike, if possible. And if you’re contending with a blizzard or harsh weather of some kind, consider having a Zoom meetup.
The pandemic took a lot of things away from us, but it gave us the gift of keeping in touch with loved ones virtually. Take advantage of that and put these social commitments on your calendar so you don’t forget.
5. Seek Counseling
Even with these suggestions, the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can be too much to handle on your own.
If it’s within your realm of possibility, reach out to a licensed therapist, psychiatrist, or social worker to help you navigate these negative feelings and emerge from these dark days stronger than before.
A therapist can also teach you healthy coping mechanisms for when you feel symptoms of depression or anxiety coming on.
If you’re interested in learning more about SAD, visit BetterHelp to explore additional resources on this and more.
From time to time, everyone experiences a bit of winter blues. If you hear its melancholy notes coming your way, stay strong and use the tips from this article.
Get some light therapy, engage in physical exercise, fill your fridge with healthy foods, socialize with friends and family, and if you still need help, seek counseling.