10 Ways to Minimize Seasonal Affective Disorder
It is not uncommon to experience low moods during the colder weather months. Feeling low with the changes in seasons is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that is associated with seasonal variations. The exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is not yet understood. However, this form of depression may be associated with reduced exposure to sunlight.
Some of the symptoms of SAD include:
- Lack of energy
- Increased appetite
- Sleep issues
- Feeling unsociable
Do you usually feel down when nights seem endless and temperatures plummet each year? If so, follow these tips to fortify your mental health when the colder seasons arrive:
Change Your Diet
Since SAD is associated with reduced exposure to sunlight, it is a good idea to include a lot of vitamin D in your diet when the days grow shorter. To increase your vitamin D intake, eat extra mushrooms, fortified cereals, or fortified milk alternatives such as soy milk, oat milk or almond milk. Try to resist filling up on carbohydrates. Instead, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to keep your immune system healthy. Filling up on plant-based food will help you avoid getting sick during the cold months of the year.
Take Up an Outdoor Hobby
Some people feel reluctant to venture outdoors when the weather is freezing. Yet going outside, breathing in the fresh air, and absorbing what little sunlight may be available is excellent for both your physical and mental health. Outdoor hobbies involving physical exercise are particularly beneficial.
Find an activity that you enjoy! Whether that’s hiking, walking, skating, or skiing, find something that interests you and fits your budget. It’s also a great idea to find a friend who would be willing to join! Having a friend to do a hobby with will likely motivate you even more to make this hobby into a regular part of your routine.
In the end, it does not matter what outdoor hobby you choose to take up. Just make sure you choose something that you will enjoy. Choosing something you like will increase the probability of you taking up the hobby permanently.
Make Time for a Winter Break
People tend to book vacations for the warmer months of the year. While it is good to make the most of warm weather, fall and winter can feel long if you do not have anything planned. If possible, book yourself a break somewhere lovely in the winter to help manage your SAD symptoms.
Ideally, you should book a trip somewhere warm to get away from the cold weather and get some vitamin D. However, if you are on a budget, a trip somewhere closer to home will still be invigorating. It will also provide you with something fun to anticipate. For instance, a cozy winter trip to a cabin in the woods close to your home could do a lot to restore your mental wellbeing.
Nobody likes feeling cold or shivering to try and stay warm. You are more likely to become depressed during the cold weather months if your body is not warm enough. Make sure you do whatever it takes to keep your body warm. Wear extra layers, snuggle underneath a cozy blanket, or cuddle up by the fire. Purchase thermal and waterproof clothing so you are protected from the cold when you go outdoors. Drink hot teas and other warm beverages to help stop any winter shivering. Keeping yourself warm during the winter can cut down feelings of winter depression significantly.
When the temperature drops, many people stay at home much more. When you remain inside for extended periods of time, it can get lonely and increase feelings of isolation. For those who live alone, fall and winter may feel particularly lonely. Thus, it is wise to spend time with family and friends frequently during cold weather. Invite people to your home or be willing to visit others. Bear in mind that humans are social animals. Even the shyest of introverts occasionally feel lonely. You need company sometimes to feel mentally well. Your requirement for some company remains present during all seasons of the year. If you are unable to visit people in person due to financial or COVID-related restrictions, be sure to regularly check in with your friends and family by giving them a phone call or arranging a video call over FaceTime or Zoom!
Get Your Exercise
It is easy to use cold weather as an excuse to lead a sedentary lifestyle. When there is a blizzard outside, it seems reasonable to avoid your evening walk or skip a visit to the gym. However, exercise is always important. Even if it is impossible to get near a gym or leave the house because you are snowed in, you can still exercise.
Perhaps you have a treadmill in the basement and a few dumbbells lying around. If so, you already have what you need to exercise at home, regardless of the weather. If you do not have any specific equipment, use the staircase to get some cardiovascular exercise and lift cans of food for a resistance workout. Even shoveling snow is a great workout!
Invest In a Light Box
Some people who suffer from the winter blues invest in a light therapy box. These boxes mimic the effects of natural daylight. Although using a light box will not cure SAD, it may ease the symptoms of the condition. The boxes work by altering the balance of chemicals in your brain to improve your mood.
The symptoms of depression are difficult to bear alone. If you struggle with symptoms of depression during the fall and winter, make sure you have a support network that you can turn to on your most difficult days. It is always good to have two or three people to listen to you without any judgment. Confide in the individuals that make you feel safe to talk about your feelings. Sometimes talking things through will help to release some of the stress and provide a sense of comfort on your difficult days. Even if you aren’t ready to open up, having someone to sit in silence with can also bring a sense of comfort when you’re feeling low.
Ask For Assistance
Mental health help does not just come in the form of self-care, friends, and family. If your SAD symptoms become difficult to manage, it is vital to seek professional help. A mental health professional can assess your particular needs. They can then offer you various forms of assistance. The support they provide will make it easier for you to manage your SAD symptoms. For example, psychotherapy or talk therapy combined with a prescription of antidepressant medication can treat moderate to severe depression.
You Are Never Really Alone
Sometimes when your mental health is below par, it can feel quite daunting and lonely. Remember that at least one in four adults suffers from some form of mental health issue, including SAD. Many people presently feel, have felt, or will feel depressed at some stage in their life. You are never alone, so reach out when you need to, and talk.