Did you know the winter blues has a medical term? It called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short. Even the acronym implies the deep sadness and low energy it causes. Yet if you notice your mood decreases during the shorter days and seasonal patterns, you might have this type of depression. This article is your go-to guide with several seasonal affective disorder tips to help you cope with those cold blues.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression affected by weather and sunlight changes commonly affecting people in winter. But some people do experience SAD in the summer. Why? Let’s find out.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
While the exact causes are unclear, many experts believe that the limited light affects your circadian rhythm, your internal clock that controls your sleep and wake cycles. And if your clock is off, it can negatively impact your mood and energy. The same experts also believe hormone disruption during the seasons plays a role. For example, the happy hormone, serotonin, and the sleep hormone, melatonin, become affected as our earth spins its axis.
What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Since SAD is a type of depression, the symptoms tend to overlap and be quite similar. But remember, like other disorders, the symptoms vary from person to person and, in this case, depend on the season.
- Low energy
- Decreased self-esteem
- Social isolation
- Persistent sadness
- Feeling hopeless or guilty
- Irritability and anger
- Poor concentration
- Feeling stressed or anxious
- Comprised immunity
- Appetite changes
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Low libido
- Lost of interest in preferred activities
If this sounds like what you’re experiencing, below are several tips to help brighten your mood.
9 Seasonal Affective Disorder Tips
1. Prepare your mind
If you already have SAD or a strong idea that you do, prepare your mind as you prepare for the season change. To do this, prioritize activities during the fall that make you happy before the winter begins. For example, go for long mindful walks and listen to the crunch of leaves as you step on them, spend increased time with your loved ones, or take up any hobby that lights you up. If you prep your mind before winter, you’ll be in a better position to tackle those cold blues.
2. Follow a schedule
One common symptom of SAD is sleep difficulties. And while it’s tempting to sleep in after a night of tossing and turning, it won’t help your mood. Sticking to a regular schedule not only improves your sleep short-term, but it also reduces your symptoms. Bonus, you’ll have more time to spend during the natural light. So, turn off your phone well before bed, complete guided meditations for sleep, and work on going to bed and waking up at the same time.
3. Consider light therapy
Considered the first treatment option for those with SAD, artificial light will keep your circadian rhythm on track and give you the light you need. In fact, light therapy boxes create light that mimics sunshine and helps you manage your symptoms better. Although experts believe you’ll reap the most benefits if you use it within one hour after waking up for around 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Invite the natural light
One of the best seasonal affective disorder tips is to invite more sunshine. If you’re inside, open the blinds, and choose a workplace near a well-lit window. But most importantly, take advantage of the limited light during the winter. For example, go for a long walk at noon when the sun is at its brightest, or volunteer at a shelter and walk dogs. Volunteering will provide a double mood booster – cuddles with puppies plus sunshine.
5. Get Vitamin D
Did you know a vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for depression? It’s true. In fact, those who are not getting enough are more prone to SAD. But it’s challenging to receive the required levels through the sun alone. Therefore, stock up on vitamin D-rich foods like salmon, tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, soy milk, and fortified cereal. Additionally, take a vitamin D supplement to ensure you’re in the safe zone.
6. Embrace the season
Instead of binge-watching Netflix and avoiding the cold, get outside. Even if for a few minutes to start. You can call a friend and go for a walk, ski, sled, build a snowman, watch the snow glitter, or have a snowball fight. Whatever the reason, getting outside will make a world of difference. The cold is a powerful therapeutic tool for many reasons. It provides a healthy distraction, activates your nervous system, and trains your body to respond better to stress.
7. Reduce your stress
Stress is always a mood dampener, especially if you’re experiencing depression or SAD. Therefore, make self-care a habitual part of your day. For example, take a hot bubble bath with aromatherapy candles, watch an uplifting movie, practice meditation, complete a yoga class, or read a book. Anything that will give you a break from how you feel.
8. Take a holiday
There’s nothing better than escaping the cold and retreating somewhere warm and sunny. And there’s nothing wrong with doing just that. The weeks preparing for the holiday and the weeks after will keep your mood high. So, if possible, plan a holiday to avoid the overcast and go somewhere bright and warm. If this isn’t in your wheelhouse, have a staycation and prioritize a self-care week.
9. Practice self-forgiveness
When we’re upset, it’s tempting to give in to our inner critic and be cruel to ourselves. But speaking to yourself poorly will only make you feel worse. Instead, practice a little self-forgiveness to enhance self-compassion. You can do this by repeating a positive affirmation like “It’s okay to feel sad, and I forgive myself for feeling angry” or “I am loved, appreciated, and supported, even when it feels like I’m not“.
If you have SAD, you’re not alone. But it is a form of depression and needs to be addressed by a mental health professional. Therefore, while it’s beneficial to follow this list of seasonal affective disorder tips, see a professional if you feel your depression is interfering with your daily functioning. Indeed, receiving support early on will help you feel better and more in control of your life.
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