When winter hits it’s easy to look out at the gray skies and bare trees and want to curl back under your blankets in retreat. You aren’t alone; it’s easy to feel that way, and this feeling has a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a pattern of depressive symptoms that occur yearly with the change of the seasons, most often happening in the winter months.
SAD symptoms include many of the same symptoms as major depression: fatigue, loss of interest in hobbies, feelings of sadness, lack of concentration and productivity at work, school or home. These symptoms have been shown to stem from a neurobiological condition that is related to melatonin, a sleep-related hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm of our bodies. When levels of melatonin are higher in the body during the winter months, it can cause a person to feel out of balance. Individuals with SAD have an ultra-sensitive body clock that gets thrown off when exposed to less sunlight.
How to Cope with SAD
So how do you help your mood and combat symptoms of SAD? Look at the checklist below and try any or all of the suggestions. They will go a long way to helping you beat those winter blues and have a brighter season!
1) See a doctor or medical professional. SAD symptoms can mimic other more serious conditions like anemia or hypothyroidism. So discuss your symptoms with your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
2) Observe your circadian rhythm by recording your sleep schedule, when you eat and your overall well-being. Your circadian rhythm is an internal biochemical cycle that regulates basic human body needs like eating and sleeping so keeping track of how much or how little you are doing those activities will give you a better sense of your body clock.
3) Expose yourself to more sunshine. Take advantage of the hours when sunlight is available, whether by bundling up against the cold weather and going outside or sitting by a window with the curtains open and let the sunshine pour in. Try to get at least 30 minutes (morning sun is recommended) of exposure to sunlight to help your body clock reset.
4) If you can’t get enough natural sunshine, consider Light Therapy. Light Therapy uses an artificial light that is UV-free and mimics the effects of natural sunlight. You can find several varieties from retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.
5) Try aromatherapy. Aromatherapy has been known to boost your mood and create a calming atmosphere.
6) What you put into your body affects all aspects of your well-being. Eating healthy, nutritious foods and avoiding sugar will help keep your body in balance.