We’re currently in the thick of winter, and like many others I get a touch of the winter time blues (or seasonal affective disorder).
According to mayoclinic.org, “seasonal affective disorder, [aptly named] SAD, is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”
These changes occur in your body because of the lack of sunlight in winter and the shorter days which mess up our circadian rhythm and our internal body clock unity.
Due to this, webmd.com tells us that “the lack of sunlight causes the brain to work overtime producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates your body clock and sleep patterns and a hormone that has been linked to depression.”
While some, like me, may only get a small amount of SAD, many experience it thoroughly. Regardless of the level of seasonal depression you experience, here are some tips and advice to help you get through the long winter months.
Seeing a doctor
This is the most important step in feeling better, even if you aren’t feeling entirely affected by SAD. I am not a doctor by any means, and this list is to be taken purely as friendly advice from what I’ve experienced.
A doctor, however, is a trained professional who can monitor your health and how you feel, and can best help to diagnose you, and even prescribe medications to help get you back to your normal, chipper self. They can also recommend light therapy, to mimic sunlight, and psychotherapy to help.
Making the most of daytime hours
As one of the main causes of SAD being the lack of sunlight we experience in winter time, it is important to take advantage of any days where there is plenty of sunlight, and to utilise that natural light as much as possible.
Simply by taking a walk at midday, reading a book outside, and even making sure to use more natural lighting in your home can help you to feel a little better.
Ensuring proper nutrition
Since your body is thrown out of whack with the deprivation of vitamins given to you by the sun (i.e. vitamin D), it does your body good to make sure you’re eating well, and taking daily vitamins.
By swapping a midday sugary snack for a piece of fruit or fresh vegetables, you’ll be boosting those vitamin levels in your body, and helping your body do it’s best to fight off anything that is making you not feel your best.
Journaling and tracking your mood
This is my key ingredient to helping myself feel better. For me, if I’m able to get my feelings out on paper, and describe every perception I’ve had of the day, then it makes me feel like I’ve lifted a weight off of my chest.
As well as journaling, tracking my mood has proven very beneficial. If I’m able to see on paper how I’ve been feeling, it shows me if I’m doing better or worse than the week before. Then, I can also accurately show my doctor or others my progressions and regressions throughout the seasons.
Get in some physical activity
I know we’ve heard it all before — “just get exercise, and your depression will be cured!” but it isn’t as simple as that.
Depression makes it hard to get off of the sofa, and even harder to get out of the house if it’s blustery outside. However, even the slightest attempt at more physical activity helps your brain to release endorphins, which can “trigger a positive feeling in the body” according to webmd.com. Simply by taking a walk around the block, doing a quick YouTube exercise routine, or yoga can help your body and mind overcome depression.
Talk to a friend
It’s likely that you’re not alone in your journey through Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Having a friend know about your condition helps them to realise that you may need help or patience when it comes to some tasks. It also helps them to open up to you, as they may be experiencing the same depression. As well as being an asset to you, and helping encourage you, they can also help monitor your mood and feelings, and help you realise when it’s time to see a doctor again.
Take the time to do what you love, and don’t be afraid to ask for a mental health day
By setting aside time to pursue a hobby, or take part in some less taxing therapy, such as retail therapy, you can help to boost your mood exponentially.
Love reading books? Take a trip to the local library and dive into a classic.
Enjoy cooking? Find a new recipe, and go to town on making it.
Even if staying in with a cuddly blanket, watching a movie, and devouring popcorn is your favourite thing, doing it will help, even if it’s in the slightest amount. If the part of your day that is affecting you the most is your job, don’t hesitate to ask for a mental health day.
Many employers nowadays are including mental health days into their contracts with employees to ensure that their workers are in the best shape possible.
From abc.net.au, we learn that “something like 1 in 300 people in Australia” may suffer from seasonal affective disorder, meaning that you’re not alone in your journey to beat the winter-time blues.
There are several methods to help you get through your depression — seeing a doctor, taking time for yourself, and taking care of yourself are all excellent resources to look into. By taking a step back, evaluating what’s going on, and knowing that it’s okay to see a doctor about your worries, you can be on your way to being the best ‘you’ that you can be.