5 Ways To Prevent Seasonal Depression
With a little light therapy and the right attitude, the winter blues can be averted.
It’s that time of year again — when the darkness at 4 pm matches the darkness of our souls.
I’m sending this a day late due to the Halloween Hangover I haven’t yet recovered from.
Today’s post is about doing what we can to prevent the dark days of winter from getting the best of us. If you find it helpful, do let me know! And if you have other tricks up your sleeve on how to ward off the Winter Scaries, obvi let me know that, too.
They say summer is a state of mind. Funny how “they” only talk about summer being a state of mind in...the summer. Clearly, adopting a summer mindset is easy when you’re on the beach with your polka dot bikini sipping on a mai tai.
But what about when the skies have been grey for five consecutive days, the mornings and evenings growing darker by the minute, inadvertently affecting our ability to focus, and bringing that carefree summer energy from a “Let’s throw a pool party!” to a “Let’s crawl in bed at 3 pm.” Talk about a buzz kill.
Enter SAD, aka Seasonal Affective Disorder, which occurs in climates where there is less sunlight at certain times of the year. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. According to the Weather Channel, 30% of adults will experience symptoms of SAD this year. Ew.
Due to my own experience of postpartum depression and good old fashioned mood swings, I have one hell of a time adjusting to the winter months, for which I have failed to adequately prepare for the sun-setting-before-I-make-dinner time of year in seasons past. But this year, I am making a change, baby! I’m going to do everything I can to prevent bad moods, lack of focus, and low energy. And with the right attitude and gobs of willpower, I’m confident you can do the same.
Soooooo…..how do you know if you actually have seasonal depression, or if you’re just feeling down in the dumps from the weather change?
While feeling a mood shift this time of year is completely normal, expected even, you should always consult with your doctor if you’re feeling off — feeling sad and fatigued most of the day, every day, for example, as well as losing interest in hobbies and feeling hopeless, might be cause for concern.
Because I’m not a doctor, I can’t tell you what the cure is for your unique-to-you needs, but I can give you tangible ways to prevent the winter blues — both from my own experience and from the experts.
Just like we work out, eat healthy, drink water, and get adequate rest in order to ward off mental and physical illnesses, we can prevent feelings of seasonal depression just the same. Key word here: Prevention.
Here are 5 ways to tackle symptoms of seasonal depression
Because mood swings are never a good look.
Make the most of the sunlight. I have a saying in the winter months, “When the sun goes down, I go down,” meaning, I’m done working for the day and am ready to cook, have some wine, and unwind. This same mentality applies here, except the mantra changes to “When the sun is out, you go out.” You know the drill here. Go for walks in the middle of the day. Take meetings outside. Play with your kids in the yard when they get home from school. Treat the sunlight as the magical gift that it is.
Add bright colors to your environment. Taking advantage of sun time brings me to my next point of reference — incorporating bright colors into your every day. This can be anything from a vase of royal blue flowers at your desk to making a habit of making a pretty pink smoothie for your afternoon pick-me-up. Whether you brighten up your face with makeup, paint your office wall orange, or invest in a rainbow loveseat, make sure you see (and feel!) the fabulous effects of color on the daily.
Remember that food has a huge influence on our mood. According to the wellness gurus from Happiful Magazine, 90% of our serotonin and 50% of our dopamine is produced in our gut. What does that mean? Eating more oily fish (like salmon), egg yolk, good fats (like avocado and natural almond butter), low-sugar breakfast cereals (like oatmeal), and fermented foods (like sauerkraut), are your ticket to warding off sluggishness. Remember that food is fuel.
Give light therapy a whirl. A useful tool to treat SAD is a light therapy box, aka a special lamp that mimics actual sunshine. According to cognitive behavioral psychologists, sitting in front of a light therapy box for 30 minutes a day will stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms, suppressing its natural release of melatonin (the hormone that helps you sleep). Experts suggest using the light box first thing in the morning when it is said to be most effective. I’m excited to finally give this one a go this year.
Take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” has been touted as being one the most effective ways to keep the pep in your step during the months between October and March. You should be able to find vitamin D supplements at your local health stores, or you can find them online. I am also looking forward to incorporating this one into my winter routine, as I have yet to try it.
See you next week.
Keep being you.
Sip Sip is a weekly newsletter dedicated to making moms feel SEEN in the realm of mental health. As the editor, I’m committed to easing your mom woes — one newsletter at a time — through advice, lessons, and humor.
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