A week before daylight savings time it starts to feel like an edge of dread pressing down. My daughter isn’t home until 4:30 pm from school, and with darkness already starting to creep in and our rainy season in full swing, there will be few opportunities for neighborhood walks with our dogs. Walks that provide me a lift and get my tween daughter to open up a little. Sometimes it feels like the winter robs me of moments that matter. It appears many others struggle during this season too. Everyday Health reports that “About 4 to 6 percent of people in the United States have SAD …And as many as 20 percent may have a mild form of it.”
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is about more than just feeling down though, per USA Today, “People with SAD may also have difficulty concentrating and experience increased stress and anxiety…” Fortunately, there are many things you can do to fight off the winter blues. Here are 5 recommendations you can implement in your life now.
It turns out preparation can also help your mental health. If you get in the habit of doing activities that boost your mood in the Fall, it is easier to keep them up during the winter months. Join a yoga class, take up the ukulele, set up a monthly coffee meet-up with friends, or whatever fills you with joy and make them part of your routine. Also, ensure you have a buddy that will hold you accountable to continue when you would rather stay on the couch. It’s not too late, you can start doing these things right now too.
One recommendation of the American Psychological Association (APA) is to spend time with friends and family. If you are experiencing SAD, you are more likely to isolate yourself, which further adds to your depression. Make a conscious effort to connect with your loved ones. Have tea, play a game, watch a movie, or schedule a weekly dinner. Also, be sure to tell them what you are experiencing so they can proactively connect with you.
Yes, exercise for the win again. Nearly every article reports that exercise increases your mood-boosting endorphins. Doctor recommendations back this up too. SAD may tempt you to stay in bed, so ensure you have a schedule and accountability partner that will get you up and moving. Exercising outside is even better, as fresh air and even the smallest amounts of light will boost good mood endorphins even more.
Let the Light In
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.” Every time the sun comes out, open the curtains and sit by the window. What to do if the sun disappears though? Thankfully, safe and effective options to gain the benefits of sunlight are easy to come back. Everyday Health recommends light therapy boxes and dawn simulators. It is best to use a light therapy box within an hour of waking and for 20-30 minutes. Dawn simulators can be used to wake you up with gentle light that gradually increases in intensity, like the sunrise.
See Your Doctor
Finally, you might need to seek help. The Mayo Clinic’s advice is… “if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor.” Your doctor will take your history, run tests; and might prescribe using light therapy, taking anti-depressants, or Vitamin D. You can also, seek out naturopathic therapies. A naturopath might prescribe complementary therapies such as mindfulness techniques, aromatherapy, other supplements, and/or journaling.
Your winter doesn’t have to be blue. If you follow these tips, you will be able to truly enjoy the good things like snowball fights and hot chocolate.