The days of warm weather and sunny skies are slowly moving behind us until winter passes (unless, of course, you live in a state where Winter does not exist, to which we say … quit your complaining) and as the temperature changes, our bodies tend to adjust in their own way too, which sometimes means facing a seasonal slump. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is commonly understood as depression that occurs at the same time every year. The lack of sunlight impacts the body and the brain’s ability to create chemicals that help with the body’s sleep pattern and production of serotonin. When the days are filled with gloomy, dark, rainy skies, some (and quite honestly most) people tend to feel that in their emotional state.
While we can not change the weather that is inevitably ahead, there are tips and tricks that can help decrease and beat the feelings of depression that might come out from hiding.
1. Stay Active:
Though hibernation might temporarily feel good, this perpetuates the cycle of loneliness and sadness. Moving your body is proven to have positive effects on mental health. Find some friends to ice skate with, build a snowman, or, if it’s way too cold, go to an indoor event like a museum or comedy show.
2. Find Light:
Soak up the moments where the sun is shining, sit by a window and read or drink your hot cocoa. On days where the sun might be on vacation, there is still a way to get that vitamin D in your life. Look into purchasing a ‘lightbox’ which has a brighter shine than typical lights, and is proven to boost melatonin- which boosts mood and insomnia symptoms.
3. Eat well:
Yes, winter is the season of all the wonderful pumpkin and gingerbread goodies. And YES you should enjoy that! But be mindful. Remember that good food makes your body feel good. If you are home due to cruddy weather, make sure you are eating foods rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin D which would otherwise come from sunlight.
4. Keep in touch:
Make a point of keeping in contact with others despite potentially not being able to go out as often. This will help combat the feeling of loneliness during those home-bound days. Make a point of talking to at least 2 people every day, bonus points if you facetime. Bonus, bonus points if you see them face-to-face.
5. Stick to a Schedule:
Make a plan and stick to it. Some days will be hard as the bed is warm and outside is well… not. Find a reason to get out each day, or on days where that is not an option, find a way to make that day productive. Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read? A documentary you’ve been told you’d enjoy? Now’s the time to cross those off the list. Plan ahead. Book workout classes with friends to hold you accountable. Buy tickets to a show. Make reservations for a restaurant. Schedule it in and stick to it!
6. Seek professional help:
If you are impacted by seasonal depression, you are far from alone. Seek out a therapist who utilized the cognitive-behavioral approach which will help in working through SAD. Studies suggest that at least 11 million Americans experience seasonal depression, therapists are trained to help.