We’ve all been there – the holidays are over, it’s the start of the new year, it’s cold, the days are short, the nights are long, and it’s dark all the time! This could be a tough time of year for a lot of people where they are constantly feeling lethargic with a lack of energy and finding it impossible to get off the couch.
If this sounds familiar to you, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, which is based around the change of the seasons. While it can happen during all seasons, it is particularly prevalent in the winter.
Symptoms of SAD
- Depression on a daily basis
- Low energy
- Lack of interest in things you usually enjoy
- Appetite changes
- Weight gain
- A sense of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
If you are currently experiencing SAD, here are the top 5 things you can do help fight it and get back to enjoying your life.
- Get sunlight (natural or simulated) wherever you can.
Find chances to get outside in the sun whenever you can. In those few pockets of the day where you have access to sunlight – take it.
In the late morning or early afternoon, when the sun is brightest, go for a walk for that much needed coffee break. Or when it’s time for lunch, instead of staying inside to eat, go on a walk for a change of scenery and to get that sun. But if you live in a colder region, be sure to bundle up!
Light therapy box
If you’re located in a place that is considerably darker and colder, you may want to look for some more synthetic light. You should consider getting a light therapy box which mimics bright outdoor light.
Using a light therapy box has been found to help the brain’s chemistry in relation to mood, sleep, and energy. About thirty minutes of light therapy at the start of your day should be enough to give you a sensation similar to sunlight.
Similar to a light therapy box, you may consider getting a dawn simulator, an alarm clock that, instead of making noise progressively, brightens your sleeping environment until you’re awake, creating a sensation similar to being woken by sunlight.
Using either of these tools for synthetic sunlight may be the best option for you.
- Have a daily routine.
In general, it’s healthy to have a regular routine, but for those suffering from SAD who have trouble sleeping and waking up should really stick to a schedule. Having a set bedtime as well as time you wake up every day should aid in sleep habits.
Similarly, eating your meals at the same time every day will help your appetite and energy levels, as well as keep you from unwanted weight gain during the winter season.
While sticking to a schedule, you should have a set time that you exercise every day to help alleviate stress and depression. Plus you will be able to work off the heavy foods that people are prone to eat during winter and the holidays.
Daily exercise could be as simple as a walk during your lunch break, hitting the gym first thing in the morning, or a jog around the block when you get home from work (if it’s warm enough).
There are plenty of other viable options to help keep you active and fight the symptoms of SAD; it’s just best to find something that works for you.
- Be more social.
Sometimes when people are depressed, they find it hard to get out and be social with friends or family. But if you make plans to see people – either at a party or get together – or simply meeting friends for dinner or coffee can help.
When you socialize with people you realize that you aren’t as alone as you think you are. Similarly, when out and meeting with friends, you may find that others have been dealing with the same plight as you, making you realize you aren’t the only one feeling depressed.
When socializing, you aren’t only helping your own depression but can be helping others who are currently feeling the same way.
- Go on vacation.
This is a more luxurious option, but a great option nonetheless. If you have the means, find a time to go on a vacation and take a break from your regular routine. Taking a trip to a warmer, sunnier climate can help with a nice change of scenery and get you some much needed sunshine.
Along with that, taking a break from your job can be a nice escape and relieve yourself from stress that you may be dealing with on a daily basis.
Outside of the duration of the trip, you will also find an improvement of your mood on the lead-up to the trip as your excitement increases while planning. Similarly, the improved mentality will linger during the weeks after the trip.
Remember, a vacation doesn’t need to be to a fancy place like Hawaii or the Bahamas. Going to a more affordable place that’s in driving distance or a cheap flight away should be considered as well. Everybody deserves a vacation from time to time!
- Seek medical attention.
If your case of SAD is more extreme and can’t simply be resolved by any of the previously mentioned options, you may want to see a doctor. A doctor may recommend some changes in your life that can help you out. If you meet with a psychiatrist or psychologist, they can help talk you through the issues that they are dealing with.
Similar to being social, a doctor could be a great sounding board to help deal with depression. A doctor may also recommend taking antidepressants to overcome seasonal depression. In this case, you want to find a medication that works best for you.
Your doctor may recommend something more mild if you’re case isn’t severe enough to call for antidepressants. Certain health supplements or vitamins may be recommend to be added to your diet. Vitamin D in particular has shown to be a good option when suffering from SAD, as it provides the nutrients that you normally receive from sunlight. Taking vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorous, aiding in bone, muscle, and tissue growth.
In the end though, nobody should feel alone and helpless during the dark and cold of winter. If you feel that you are suffering from SAD, find an option that works for you and just remember that spring is right around the corner!