Is seasonal depression real? There are tons of ways to cope with the winter blues
As the weather gets colder and daylight hours dwindle, the shorter days and darker skies force us to face the harsh reality that it’s time to put away the sundresses and say goodbye to our glowing sun-kissed skin. Ugh, we’re sad about it too. But for many people the change in weather and shorter days mean something much more serious. Luckily, there are resources and ways to cope out there to battle the symptoms of seasonal depression. Most people with seasonal affective disorder have symptoms (SAD) that start in the fall and continue into the winter months.
To understand SAD, we must first understand the way light affects our mood and energy level. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to get out of bed on a bright summer’s day as opposed to a dark and rainy morning? That’s because light has an incredibly powerful effect on the human brain. Getting the right amount of light can boost our serotonin levels and since serotonin helps to balance our mood, losing that extra hour of daylight when many of us are outdoors because of our commutes or for whatever reason can really throw things off.
For most of us, the change isn’t too major but according to the Mayo Clinic, those with SAD may experience symptoms like depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, oversleeping, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, appetite changes (especially an increase in cravings for foods high in carbohydrates), weight gain, and difficulty concentrating.
If you find yourself feeling a little depressed at the same time every year, this might be the reason. Of course, we don’t want you spending your winter months sad and unmotivated, so here are a few tips to help you cope with your SAD.
Walk towards the light.
Literally! A one-hour walk outdoors every morning can do wonders for anyone suffering from SAD. Since SAD is related to a lack of daylight, even some exposure to daylight — regardless if the sun is shining or not — has a positive impact.
Be sure to take your vitamins.
According to the experts, getting all your vitamins, especially vitamin D can help fight fatigue and lack of focus.
Stay connected (and not just to the internet).
As the weather changes, we all seem to go back indoors and, too often, this isolation adds to feelings of depression. Spend some time with the people in your life you feel your best around. If you’re really feeling the blues and don’t have anyone to dish to, you should reach out to a therapist or call a hotline, like 1-800-273-TALK, and speak to a pro.
Because endorphins, endorphins, endorphins. Exercise is a great way to lift your spirit. It’s hard to want to go to yoga or get a run in when you’re feeling down and sad, but we guarantee you’ll be glad afterwards.
Maintain a regular schedule.
By keeping your sleep cycle in check, you help keep your body’s internal clock in sync by setting your circadian rhythm — the tiny master clock structure in the brain affected by light.
Hopefully, these tips will help you through the dark wintery months but remember, if you need more help be sure to reach out to your doctor. Asking for help is the first step to feeling better, we promise.