Yes, “winter blues” is a real thing. People not being outside in the sun and cold weather can be a drag. But, in general, it’s a minor inconvenience that does not alter one’s day-to-day life. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), on the other hand, is a type of depression. SAD is a diagnosable condition that most definitely can alter your daily life — at least for a few months.
Like any type of depression, SAD cannot be brushed off or taken lightly. Speaking with a therapist is highly suggested. Two parallel steps involve learning more about SAD and practicing some daily self-care.
SAD and Its Symptoms
There are instances where people react to the approach of very warm summer weather. More typically, SAD is a disease of winter. It follows a seasonal pattern and the most common symptoms include:
- Changes in sleep patterns (this usually means sleeping more)
- Low energy despite the extra sleep
- Overeating, food cravings (especially carbs), and weight gain
- A mix of anxiety and depression
Needless to say, symptoms like this can disrupt your normal daily routines. As a result, SAD’s influence can spread into other areas of your life and negatively impact your relationships, work life, and overall health.
4 Tips For Dealing With Seasonal Depression This Winter
1. Try Light Therapy
A major component of seasonal depression is the relative absence of light. This usually takes form in two ways:
- Taking every opportunity to get outside during daylight hours
- Setting up a specific type of lamp to maximize your exposure to artificial light in your home and/or workplace
2. Make Healthy Dietary Choices
Maintaining a healthy diet is always a good decision. When it comes to dealing with SAD, it is especially important that you begin by avoiding comfort foods. The cold weather — and the depressed mood it can inspire — may feel like a time to indulge. But you’ll be much better off if you skip that fried meal and instead opt for a hot bowl of soup. Aim to prioritize:
- Fruits and vegetables: Dark green (kale) and orange (carrots) are excellent choices
- Complex carbohydrates: When those carb cravings hit, skip the sweets and go for whole grains
- Vitamin D: Your body will produce more if you get sunlight but if SAD is present, you may wish to speak to your doctor about taking supplements
3. Stay Active
Depression may do its best to convince you to stay sedentary. However, exercise is a powerful mood enhancer. Aerobic training will elevate your heart rate and your state of mind. Whenever possible, combine exercise with being outside in the sun, e.g. walking, running, playing sports, etc. If the weather simply will not cooperate, join a gym and/or find a local indoor pool you can use.
4. Get Sensual
What stimulates your senses? For some, it might be certain scents that can be accessed via cooking or aromatherapy. You might feel uplifted by painting your walls in a bright color. Perhaps you feel best when curled up with a book or writing in your journal. Find what works for you and make it a point to do it each day.
Therapy is Indispensable
To be clear, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression. This means you’ll need to speak with a therapist. This connection can empower you by:
- Giving you room to talk about what you feel
- Teaching you valuable skills like identifying triggers
- Helping you recognize new ways to soothe your mind
The winter does not have to be something you dread. With a healthy blend of therapy and self-help, you can thrive all year round. I’d love to talk more with you about this.
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