Winter isn’t just a colder time of year; it can add stress, anxiety and depression for some. The winter blues is very real... Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can affect 10-20% of people in the U.S. Also known as winter depression, SAD is a type of depression that follows the seasons, and may be related to the levels of daylight we get throughout the winter.
Some symptoms of SAD are:
- Feeling sad most of the time, daily
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low energy
- Fluctuations in appetite or weight
- Craving high carb foods
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
While visiting your doctor is always the best course of action if you’re experiencing SAD symptoms, you can also get some relief with these tips:
Supplement your vitamin D.
When you’re feeling down, it can help to add some vitamin D into your system. This study found that taking vitamin D supplements improved symptoms of seasonal depression. So get yourself a bottle and boost your mood and health.
Turn on the lights.
This goes hand-in-hand with getting more vitamin D. Sunlight naturally gives us this goodness, but during the winter months we have less daylight, less sun, and therefore less natural vitamin D. Good news—you can create your own sunlight! Get a light box like this one, and hang out by it for 30 minutes a day. Set it up at your desk at work, or turn it on while you’re reading in bed at night. Or if you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, a dawn simulator could be helpful too. It mimics the patterns of sunrise with indoor lighting.
When we’re feeling moody or down, it can be easy to turn to comfort foods to make us feel better. While some things like chocolate, have been shown to improve our moods, things like sugar, candy and carbs only provide temporary relief. It’s best to stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet, so you don’t get lethargic and feel worse later. Try out some of these superfood recipes we wrote about.
Cut the caffeine.
Just like certain foods, caffeine can give you a temporary burst of energy. But when it's all said and done, caffeine will make your blood sugar levels drop, dehydrate you, and make you sluggish. Stay hydrated with water and green tea instead.
Exercise is proven to reduce stress levels. I know after a long day, I like to unwind by sweating it out. So, when you’re feeling moody and down, hit the gym or go for a run. Even something like a quick walk around the block or a few steps on a treadmill can improve symptoms of depression. Need some ideas on workouts you can do at home? We recently wrote about that here.
Get outta bed.
...And make it. Seriously. Make your bed every morning. It seems like a trivial, pointless chore, but it will help you feel accomplished and prevent you from diving back into it. Fluff those pillows and get on with your day!
When you make a difference in someone’s life, it can have a positive impact on your mood too. Volunteer somewhere or take up a cause that is important to your heart. You’ll improve someone’s life and get all the feels of satisfaction, accomplishment, and happiness from it.
While you’re helping others, consider asking for help yourself. SAD support groups can help you share your experience with others who are in the same boat and you won't feel so alone. You can also see a doctor to help you find solutions on how to cope with SAD.
At the end of the (short sunlight) day, do what makes you feel better, and take care of yourself first. This season is full of wonderful things for you to experience and enjoy, so make the most of winter and all it has to offer.