It’s that time of year again…clocks have turned back, less daylight, less time, or so it feels, and cold, dreary days are upon us. These changes can cause a case of the “winter blues,” or more pricelessly, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) According the American Psychiatric Association this disorder affects 10 million Americans, and women more than men. SAD, like any other form of depression is real and needs care.
There are several factors as mentioned above that can lead to the development of the winter blues. One of the most important things is to acknowledge feeling down when you are. That alone can go a long way to help you reach out for help and support. One may feel fatigued, have a depressed mood and even suffer from physical symptoms. There are a few things one can do to combat these winter blues.
1-Make an appointment with your Doctor to talk about the experience. They may prescribe medication to get you through this tough time. Since SAD mainly affects people during the winter months (it can happen in the summer, but less often) the feelings of sadness and lack of self-worth tend to go away as days get longer.
2-Explore the use of light therapy as a way to combat SAD. Since there is a shortage of light during the winter months and this contributes to the disorder, light therapy can be an effective way to combat the symptoms.
3-Pay attention to your sleep cycle. The change in daylight hours can have a profound effect on sleep and the quality of sleep. Try to stick to the same bed time routines and get the same amount each night that your body requires.
4-Exercise. I cannot stress this one enough. When our mood dips, it can feel hard to push yourself to get out and get moving, but the release of endorphins from exercise will go a long way to improving mood and sleep. Unless the snow prevents you from getting outside, I suggest exercising outdoors. Fresh air does a body wonders. Yes it may be cold, so bundle up, grab a friend or two and get moving. Walk, run or stroll. Anything that gets the heart pumping and gives you the opportunity to breathe deeply helps to release the endorphins. If the snow makes it difficult to head outdoors then go to the gym and make use of the cardio equipment and resistance training. The socialization among people in the gym may also help too. Don’t rush out when the workout is over. Stick around and meet new people.
5-Hibernate less. When the daylight hours shrink and the days are cold, people tend to hibernate. I suggest getting out as often as you can to socialize. Meet friends for some hot cocoa, go to a book store, or see a show…anything that keeps connections alive.
6-Get out in the sun. Clearly the sun’s rays during the winter months do not pack a punch but try and get as much sunlight during the day to increase vitamin D. Since much of the skin is covered, try and allow as much skin to be exposed to the sunlight. Turn that face up to the sky, breathe in the crisp air deeply and smile.
7-Talk to your doctor about supplementing with Vitamin D as well. We all need it and as the days are shorter our vitamin D levels drop and can contribute to a dip in mood.
8-Eat clean. Find fresh and wonderful food to nourish the soul. Winter can be a time where we grab the closest comfort food, but these packaged foods can contribute to feeling down and leave you desiring more which can lead to winter weight gain.
9-Listen to calming and relaxing music. I am a big advocate for finding some hypnotic sounds that stimulate the brain waves that leave you feeling refreshed and energized.
10-Smile. This may sound silly, but forcing a smile when you don’t feel like smiling can help to shift things in your system and create a feeling of happiness.
SAD or the winter blues is quite common. Reach out to friends, family and your doctor for support and try some of the tips to get you through. Keep in mind that with each passing day, the days get longer and you are well on your way to feeling better.