If you’re one of the many people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), you probably weren’t celebrating your free “extra” hour when you made the Daylight Savings switch recently. Instead, you were probably wondering how to cope now that we’re in the days of waking up in the dark and coming home from work in the dark.
Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, plenty of us start to feel draggy and lackluster after enough gray days and early nights. So what can you do to combat the gloom?
Here are some ways to beat the dark-days blues:
Take extra-good care of yourself.
When you don’t feel your physical best, it can be even harder to feel emotionally well. Help your mood by keeping yourself in good health. Get enough sleep at night, make sure to eat healthy, balanced meals, and find a regular exercise plan that works for you. Also keep yourself protected against seasonal illness by getting a flu shot, washing your hands frequently, and keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk to avoid office germs.
Keep your surroundings bright.
Make sure the rooms in your house are properly lit. If there are any dim spots, consider adding another table or floor lamp. At work, if your overall office environment is dark, get a lamp for your desk to make your personal area brighter.
Get outside whenever you can.
Whenever the weather permits, spend some time outside. Take your dogs for a walk, play a game with your kids, or just enjoy sitting in the fresh air for a little while. Even if the day is overcast, outdoor light can still make you feel better—not to mention the fact that just getting out into nature after being stuck indoors can cheer you up, too.
Try light therapy.
There’s a reason we feel brought down by the cold months, apart from the monotony of gray skies and long evenings. Human beings absorb vitamin D through exposure to UV-B rays found in sunlight—and when we’re not getting as much sunlight every day, it can result in feelings of depression and lack of energy.
Light boxes mimic the light you’d receive from the sun, which can affect the chemicals in your brain that regulate mood. Just sitting a few feet away from a light box for half an hour each day can help improve SAD symptoms. (Check with your health care provider for specific instructions, as they often advise you do light therapy during certain periods of the day.) Light boxes can be a little pricey, but if they can improve your daily mood and energy levels over the long, dark months, it’s worth it.
Take natural supplements.
Melatonin is believed to help treat the symptoms of SAD by regulating your sleep-wake cycle, which can be disrupted when daylight hours get shorter. (Again, you may need to take melatonin at specific points of the day for it to be most effective, so check with your physician.) Vitamin D supplements can also help replenish the nutrients you’re no longer getting from sunlight.
I know; it may feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling blah, but regular physical activity can actually give you more energy by getting you up off the couch and moving. It’s also a great way to work out some negative emotions. Try something fun and peppy like Zumba to lift your mood, something calming like yoga to relieve stress and center your thoughts, or something like kick boxing to release pent-up anger and frustration.
Not only does it slow you down and make you feel more groggy, but also (as anyone who’s nursed a breakup over a bottle of wine can tell you) alcohol can just enhance your negative feelings and make you feel even worse.
See your doctor if your feelings are too much.
The symptoms of SAD are very similar to the symptoms of depression, so if your mood continues to worsen or you start to have thoughts of hopelessness or suicide, seek professional help immediately. You may need to be put on medication to help regulate your moods and might also benefit from counseling.
If you’re in doubt whether you should seek help or not? Always opt for “yes.”
Featured photo credit: Cracked land and the lightning via Shutterstock