January and February are the darkest, coldest, and most depressing months of the year in many climates. If you find yourself feeling sad, depressed, and disinterested in your normal activities during this time of year, it’s not your imagination. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of mood disorder that’s associated with changing seasons and lack of sunshine. It’s estimated that about 4-6% of the U.S. population struggle with SAD, and 20% may suffer mild symptoms. If you’re noticing that your mood drops significantly in the fall and winter, you may want to try these seven tips to help you overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Make a plan
The best time to make a plan for dealing with SAD is before the symptoms even start of course, but that’s not always possible. Even when you’re feeling your worst, it’s important to make a routine you can stick to. Try to schedule in time to exercise, activities that get you out of the house (like game nights or dinner with friends), and even your meals. Plan some time for activities you love—and keep doing them, even when you don’t feel like it. Keeping busy and maintaining healthy habits are difficult when SAD hits you hard, but they can keep the disorder from taking over your life. So, plan ahead for the times when you don’t feel like getting out of bed.
Try light therapy
SAD is heavily associated with low levels of sunlight, and light therapy has proven to be an effective antidote during the winter months. Light therapy boxes over 10,000 lux can be effective for treating SAD, and you don’t need a prescription to buy one. Just make sure to use a model that does not transmit UV rays, and don’t use it right before you go to bed—you still need plenty of sleep!
Consider natural remedies
Vitamin D is something your body generates when you’re exposed to sunlight. In the winter, when sun is scarce, it can be helpful to take this vitamin as a supplement.
Massage can be a soothing and relaxing activity that can boost your mood when you’re in the throes of SAD. It has been shown to raise serotonin levels, and improve your overall mood. If a professional massage is too expensive, give yourself a rub down or have a partner help you. Massage schools can also be a great place to turn for inexpensive, soothing sessions.
Talk to someone
As with any mental health struggle, it can be extremely helpful to discuss your SAD symptoms with a therapist. He or she can even prescribe medication for you if it’s appropriate (though this is usually a last resort for SAD therapy).
Even just talking to a trusted friend or family member can make the situation feel less dark and hopeless. Most people have trouble asking for help, but talking through what you’re experiencing can help you get by during the winter months.
Explore your spirituality
If you’re a spiritual person, consider exploring that part of your identity. Though it doesn’t work for everyone, some people find comfort in their spirituality, using it to guide them through the dark and cold months of the year. Not spiritual? Try meditation to help you relax and center yourself.
Tired of hearing about how exercise is the key to health and mental well-being? Well, it may not be the only key, but it does play a big role in your mood and overall outlook on life. It boosts chemicals in the brain that make you feel good, like dopamine and serotonin. You don’t have to exercise outside, but it can boost the overall benefit of exercise for dealing with SAD. You’ll get benefits from what little sunlight there is outside, plus the perks of moving your body. You’ve got more than enough proof that exercise can work wonders, even on SAD, that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t get moving.
This may not be the most practical solution, and it may not be what you want to hear, but if you’re constantly struggling with SAD, year after year, then you may be living in the wrong climate. Some people enjoy the colder, darker weather, but if you’re someone who feels better in the sunshine, consider relocating. Moving may be a radical last resort, but if you’ve tried everything and you’re still debilitated by winter blues—it may be just what you need.
|||^||Mayo Clinic: Seasonal Affective Disorder|
|||^||Everyday Health: 12 Ways to Ease Seasonal Depression|
|||^||SELF: 5 Proven Ways To Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder|
|||^||Prevention: 5 Proven Ways to Deal With Seasonal Affective Disorder|
|||^||Bradley University: Mental Health in America|
|||^||Abilene Christian University: Encouraging Spiritual Development of College Students|