The weather is cooling, a soft breeze sways through your hair. The leaves are changing color...and you’re changing too. But instead of bright orange, funky colors, you get depression. Seasonal depression, that is. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that begins in the fall or winter months, and fades away as the weather warms.
Symptoms of SAD (ironic acronym..right?) include oversleeping, increased appetite, craving carbs and sugar, social withdrawal, and low energy. Those who live in areas with less sunlight and harsh winter weather are especially prone to developing SAD. So how does one combat the inevitable shifting of seasons? Unfortunately, we can’t shift the planet’s axis, so we have to develop other strategies to fend off this dreaded mental state. Below are 7 essential tips for maintaining a healthy mindset during the cooler seasons.
1. Get your workout on!
When the weather gets colder, you may be tempted to curl up into a little ball and hibernate for winter. That’s a great coping mechanism for bears, but not so much for humans. Our bodies rely on regular activity to stay regulated. Cool weather discourages people from staying active...cause who wants to get frostbite on their morning run? That’s why indoor activities, such as yoga, the treadmill, or pilates can be great ways to remain in motion, without freezing your bum off. And yes, you can still hibernate in your jammies and slippers sometimes. It’s all about creating balance!
2. Diffuse your problems away
No, diffusers aren’t a magical cure for depression. But did a lovely lavendar scent ever make depression worse? Absouletely not. Aromatherapy is a holistic practice proven to alleviate stress and anxiety. These healing effects can be optimized with mindfulness and meditation practices.
3. Catch those zzz’s
8 hours. In one go. Not scattered throughout the day. And no 4 hour afternoon naps. To fend off that SAD, you have to maintain your circadian rhythm. That’s the internal clock that says “it’s night! Go to sleep!” or “Wake up! It’s morning!”. As the winter brings darker weather, your body’s circadian rhythm may be disturbed, resulting in low mood, irritabiility, and chronic stress. We don’t want that. Sleeping a full 8 hours at night prevents disturbances to your circadian rhythm. Plus, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule has all sorts of benefits, from steady blood sugar, stronger immunity, and a stabler weight. So basically good sleep = better life!
4. Drive away from the blues
The colder seasons tend to trap us in our homes and offices all day long. And that can get kind of dreary. Looking at the same scenery, day in and day out, makes life feel a bit robotic. To avoid this mind-numbing scenario, try hopping in your car, and changing up your environment. From new coffee shops, to the mall, or a no-destination ride, there are endless ways to shake up your typical routine.
5. Healthy eating ftw
With cooling temps, come the cozy treats: hot cocoa, cookies, and sugar galore! And while we encourage you to indulge in these wintertime luxuries, it’s important to balance your diet with healthy, vitamin-rich foods. If you struggle to stay on track during the holiday season, try supplementing your diet with additional vitamin and mineral tablets, to ensure your body stays strong and healthy. Due to lack of sunlight, people are often deficient in Vitamin D during the cooler months. This essential vitamin provides a wide range of mood and health-boosting benefits, so supplementing with extra tablets can work wonders for your SAD.
6. (Sun)light it up!
Speaking of Vitamin D, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NATURAL SUNLIGHT! Whenever you sense the tiniest sliver of sacred sunlight peeking through the clouds, go outside and SOAK IT UP! Sunlight is associated with the release of a hormone called serotonin, which boosts your mood, and relieves stress.
7. Feel those feelings
SAD is real. And it sucks. And you’re going to feel a lot of feelings. Some days are better, some are eh, and some are really dark, physically AND mentally. It’s important to remain in tune with your emotions, and honor every feeling that arises during this difficult time. Keeping a journal is a great way to track your emotions, release some tension, and hold yourself accountable for self love activities!
If you believe you suffer from SAD, try out some of these tips to help alleviate the symptoms. That being said, always consult a medical professional if you’re struggling to manage your mental health. You aren’t destined to suffer from months of misery! There is still hope for your wintertime happiness.
Written by: Brianna Rauchman