8 Surprising Ways to Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder
It seems like most people feel a little down during the cold winter months, but if you feel true depression around this time every year, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is more than just the “winter blues.” SAD can leave you feeling irritable, losing interest in usual activities, craving and eating more carbohydrates and sleeping more but still feeling lethargic. And if it’s left untreated, SAD can lead to other mental health disorders and suicidal thoughts. Whether you’re suffering from SAD or feeling out-of-sorts, try these ways to lift your spirits this winter:
- Plants – Bring the outdoors inside with some potted plants to liven up your desk or home. Studies have shown that plants can reduce feelings of anxiety and blood pressure while increasing attentiveness and productivity.
- Aromatherapy – Essential oils can be used for a variety of healing capabilities—even lifting your mood. Add a couple drops of lavender or roman chamomile oil to your bath, pillow or pulse points for a calming effect. You can also try an oil diffuser (just make sure your coworkers are ok with sharing in your calming environment if you do it at work). You can find all types of essential oils at your local drug store.
- Exercise – While working out has many benefits, one of the best is that it reduces stress and improve blood pressure. Working out consistently can also leave you feeling more energetic during the day and improve the quality of your sleep. Exercising also releases endorphins, a mood booster made by our bodies.
- Make a schedule – Create a routine for yourself and stick to it. It may be tempting to stay in bed later as the mornings get darker, but by getting up at a regular time you’ll keep your circadian rhythm on track, so you’re tired at night and alert in the morning
- Take a vacation – If you don’t have the luxury to get away to a warm, sunny place, plan a day trip or a staycation. Take a vacation from the week with a mental health day to reduce stress and rejuvenate.
- Get your Vitamin D – In the winter you are likely to experience a vitamin D deficiency, as you are spending less time in the sun. Studies show that SAD is linked to the drop in vitamin D, affecting the serotonin levels. Resupply your vitamin D with supplements or take a walk during your lunch break. If you’re unable to get outside, consider a light therapy box, to activate the brain and help restore your circadian rhythm.
- Start a journal – Writing down your thoughts and feelings is a good way to solve problems and cope with stressful situations. Try writing down events from the day and reflect on them.
- Stick to a healthy diet – When you’re feeling down, you likely gravitate towards eating more refined carbohydrates—they boost levels of serotonin, which makes you feel happy. But while they make you feel good, they’re high in calories and often have little nutritional value. Trade pasta and pizza for leafy greens, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds that contain omega-3s, which can help ease depression symptoms.
If you feel your symptoms are not improving or getting worse or, see your primary care physician to discuss further treatment options. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or call 1-800-273-8255 if you being to experience suicidal thoughts.