Have you noticed a shift in your mood lately as the days become shorter and the night seems to last forever? You’re definitely not alone. It’s that time of the year again when the dread of winter starts to set in. Our bodies recognize the sudden changes in time and light and now we feel off somehow. Often called Seasonal Depression or the “Winter Blues,” Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing!
SAD is more than just “winter blues.” The symptoms can be distressing, overwhelming and can interfere with daily functioning. For some people, the season changes can be an intolerable feeling and cause severe mental health concerns. Seasonal Affective Disorder has been linked to Chemical imbalances within the brain that have been caused by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight as we head into the winter.
There are many ways that Season Affective Disorder can be treated including light therapy, vitamin D, antidepressants, talk therapy or a combination of these. While it can be expected that come the Spring, symptoms will likely improve, treatment of SAD can save you from a lot of uncomfortable feelings.
In fact, there are several steps you can take to prevent Seasonal Depression all together by making some simple lifestyle changes.
Increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy balanced diet are excellent ways for ensuring you elevate your energy and mood levels throughout the winter months. Regulating your sleep patterns is also especially important. You’ll want to avoid sleeping during the day (if possible) and do not overindulge in alcohol and caffeine consumption. By doing these things you’ll release “feel good” chemicals in the brain which will significantly keep your mood high.
During this time of the year, our emotions can be all over the place. We may feel depressed, down and anxious and it can be easy to get wrapped up in the not doing fun parts of the day. Instead, keep a gratitude journal every day. Make a point to write down the things you are grateful for each day. You’ll find a huge benefit in this and see a noticeable change in your mood.
As the weather starts getting cold, it’s so easy to find ourselves avoiding social activities. With the increased isolation and avoidance, our moods start to feel more down. It can make Seasonal Affective Disorder feel worse. Instead, maintain an effort to be more social. Phone friends, set up video chats, make active plans for a coffee date. Checking in on other people and maintaining social connection can really increase our happiness.
We can all think of reasons why we shouldn’t get something done, but creating and sticking to a schedule can help you avoid isolation and dwelling on things that make you feel down. Try adding intellectual activities to your schedule, like a crossword puzzle, reading a book, engaging in a creative activity to stimulate the mind.
Be mindful of the moment without becoming attached. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of winter, embrace the season and find things you like about it.
Even if only for a few minutes, get outside. Change your environment often. Instead of allowing yourself to remain in the house all day every day, go out and change your scenery. Change aspects of your current environment as well. Use this time to re-arrange the house. Put up new pictures or change the décor if possible. You can even invest in special light bulbs that mimic the Vitamin D in sunlight can also be helpful to use periodically.
Regularly engage in activities that bring you joy. Whether it be playing video games, writing a blog, decorating for the holidays, find something you enjoy and start implementing it into your routine.
As the seasons change and we face regular uncertainties throughout the world, it is important to remember to stay positive. In times where everything may seem negative, remind yourself of the positives in your life and strive for a positive attitude. Engage in activities that are going to fill you with positivity and can be stress-reducing while laughter-inducing – and remember that we will get through this season like we do every year.
These simple actions can help you stay positive:
- Remember that things will not be this way forever.
- Remind yourself of what is good in your life.
- Limit intake of TV time.
- Watch a funny video.
- Look after your neighbors and stay safe.
- Send gifts in the mail.
- Take advantage of newfound time.
- Practice random acts of kindness.
If you have been experiencing signs of seasonal affective disorder for more than two weeks and lifestyle changes aren’t helping to alleviate the symptoms, it may be time to talk to your doctor or contact a mental health professional. Depression is a serious condition and the longer treatment is delayed, the harder the recovery. Contact Puglisi Counseling to schedule your appointment today.