There’s a chill in the air, frost on cars in the morning, and it’s getting dark outside before 7 p.m. Winter is officially around the corner, and with it, seasonal depression (also known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD). For many, this type of depression begins in fall and lasts through the winter. It’s caused by the changing of the seasons.
SAD can cause side effects such as oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain, low energy, and fatigue, as well as increased irritability and mood swings. The cold and inclement weather can be difficult enough before adding symptoms like these. This year, plan ahead to try some of the following methods, on a regular basis, to help keep SAD away. Set up these routines now, before your mood and your motivation take a nosedive.
Try Light Therapy
As we lose light in the winter, we also can lose the balance of our circadian rhythm, which is regulated by daylight and darkness. The less we’re exposed to light, the less ability we have to maintain this rhythm. By using a special light box that emits high-intensity light, we can attempt to restore our natural rhythm and in turn feel a little better and more balanced during winter months.
Although there may be a bite in the air, being outdoors can provide you with mood-boosting effects, so bundle up and talk a walk, jog, or even sit on the porch for coffee. Being outdoors during the day and exposing yourself to sunlight, even the winter sun, can improve mood and help increase serotonin levels.
Exercise (Outside if Possible)
Exercise is known to boost moods and help counteract anxiety and depression, and while it may not be a cure for these disorders, it is a form of management. Add being outdoors and you’re doubling up on mood increasing activity to help get you through seasonal depression. Outdoor exercise can help improve self-esteem, lower tension and feelings of anxiety and increase energy. It also exposes you to necessary vitamin D, which can help fight disease and depression.
Shift Your Work Hours
Waking up when it’s dark out and leaving work when it’s dark out isn’t an easy cycle for the duration of winter. If you work remotely, have flexible office hours, or can talk to your boss about changing your hours, you might try to get more daylight by starting work at a later time, or by starting early and getting out before dark.
If this option isn’t available to you, try taking your lunch somewhere with windows, or outside if it’s not too cold, to ensure you’re getting as much daylight as possible.
Get Your Beauty Sleep
Sleep is important for our health year-round, but especially important during a time when we’re more prone to feeling tired, down, and irritable. Getting the recommended eight hours is a good place to start, but this can be difficult. SAD can impact sleep quality and cause sleep loss.
To ensure you sleep through the night soundly, try the some of therapies listed above to tire yourself out during the day. Melatonin can help you rebalance and facilitate regular sleep. And certain yoga positions and sequences can help you ease into dreamland.
Just be sure you’re getting the recommended amount, and not too much. It’s easy to oversleep when feeling depressed or down.
During winter, getting out with friends may not be as easy as when it was 75 and sunny. It’s cold, dark, and we’re already fighting to have the energy we did a few months ago. However, spending as little as 15 minutes with loved ones in a social setting can increase self-esteem, decrease feelings of depression, and boost serotonin levels. So get some friend time on the calendar, each week if possible.
Stay ahead of seasonal depression this year with these tips, and if your mood worsens or you feel depressed without relief, contact your doctor.