12 Things You Can Do Today to Get Ahead of Your Seasonal Depression this Year
Have you ever felt sad and isolated during the winter months? Maybe all you want to do is sleep and you never want to make plans. You might even find it hard to do anything productive. If you relate to any of the above statements, you probably have “Seasonal affective Disorder”, better known as SAD. SAD is a depressive disorder limited mostly to the months in which there are more hours of darkness in a day than light. This lack of light affects mood, appetite, and energy in a variety of different ways. Why darkness has a substantial impact on these factors is still being studied, however, there are some proposed explanations that make sense. Many think that the lack of sunlight causes serotonin activity to be inhibited or lessened in some ways.
This disorder affects a large number of people during the fall and winter months. It affects some people that do not suffer from depression at any other time. While this can be stressful to think about, the best part of seasonal depression is that it is seasonal. Therefore, we know when it is coming. This allows us to come up with a plan of action ahead of time to prepare for this dreadful time of year. I have compiled a list of ways that may help you get ahead of your seasonal depression before it takes over.
Listen To Uplifting Music
This is definitely one of the simplest ways to attack your seasonal depression. Put on some tunes that cannot make you sad. Similar to meditation, let the song take you away with it. Allow the music to take control over you. It may be helpful to play an uplifting playlist at the beginning of every day or anytime you catch yourself being lazy or depressed.
Focus on Physical Activity
A lot of studies show that regular exercise can ease depression even better than prescription medications. Physical activity also releases endorphins, which is associated with a more positive mood. Another major symptom of SAD is weight gain. Your metabolism slows down during the winter months, so it is important to match that with more physical activity. Don’t let the cold scare you, attend a weekly class or join a basketball league. Adding something extra like this during the winter months is sure to help with the symptoms of seasonal depression.
Get As Much Light As Possible
The daylight hours are short, so it is important to make the most of them. Since the lack of light is what causes seasonal depression, you need to make sure you are getting as much of that natural sunlight that you can soak up. Just because it is cold outside, does not mean that you can’t go outside. At the very least, get 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight per day. So bundle up and spend as much of the daylight hours as you can outdoors.
Light therapy lamps are a helpful alternative. These boxes beam artificial light that mimics sunshine and natural light. Sitting in front of one of these for a few minutes every day can help to alleviate some of the SAD symptoms.
Find A Therapist
Like most types of mental disorders, therapy is the best thing you can do to help the problem. If you don’t already have a therapist, make an appointment before you usually start having symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Finding someone ahead of time is the best way to do things. That way when the times come, you are already on the defense. Your mental health provider will be able to provide you with helpful strategies to get past seasonal depression. Talk therapy is very effective, but there are some other options to help combat seasonal depression that could prove to work better for you, like Psychotherapy and TMS therapy.
Maintain A Routine
As you begin to become tired, often it is really easy to slip out of your daily routines. You could find yourself sleeping more and being restless at night. Seasonal depression can also cause you to feel down in general and very overwhelmed. This can be tough to deal with as it is hard to stay productive and get the things done you need to. That is why it is helpful to recognize this and make a conscious effort to keep a strict routine. Staying on schedule no matter what will help to alieve other symptoms of SAD.
Start Positive Journaling
As humans, when we feel depressed, it can be hard to think about anything other than whatever is depressing us. That makes it hard to recognize anything good happening around us and thus put us deeper in our depression. Even the most normal, everyday things can seem to be outweighed by depressing things. A good way to force yourself to see the positives is to physically write them down. Grab a journal and write down three things you are grateful for, three things you like about yourself, or three things you are looking forward to. Doing this daily can help you shift your mindset.
Take Vitamin D Supplements
Many people who are north of the equator struggle with getting enough sunlight during the winter months. For the average person, their daily activities like work or school keep them inside for most of the day. This ends up causing a vitamin D deficiency in a ton of people. This lack of vitamin D can leave you feeling even more down and lethargic than usual. A lot of doctors even prescribe Vitamin D supplements during the winter months to combat certain symptoms. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take your daily dose of vitamin D during these winter months.
Change Your Diet
Certain foods like those processed foods and refined sugars can flare up your seasonal depression symptoms. For that reason, your therapist may recommend a change in diet. Increasing the regularity of foods high in protein can make a world of difference during these winter months.
Take A Vacation
This one is kind of obvious. What is the best way to get out of a depression caused by a lack of sunlight and dreary weather? Go somewhere where those things are not a problem. Taking a vacation to somewhere warm in sunny in the dead of winter can be everything you need to reset and take on the rest of the SAD season. There is a reason that people schedule their yearly vacations during the winter months. The key is to find a destination where they are having long days, to take you away from your short and dark days. If all of that didn’t convince you, taking a break from life, in general, is sure to provide you with some relief from depression!
Stay Away From Potential Triggers
When suffering from seasonal depression, it is tempting to fall into habits or activities that might feel good in the moment, but later contribute to your feelings of depression. It is important to identify what these things might be before you start to feel the symptoms of SAD, that way you know how to avoid them. For most people, this can include any sort of “bingeing” behavior. This might mean alcohol for some people and watching too much Netflix for someone else. These activities tend to cause those who are feeling depressed to spiral out of control.
Practice Meditation and Other Holistic Therapies
Basic meditation can be used to calm your mind. And with your mind comes all of your feelings of depression and anxiety. Meditation teaches how to shift your attention from the things swirling in your head to your center of gravity. Mindful meditation has even been proven to boost your serotonin levels, therefore boosting your mood along with it. Mediation can also be used as a sort of coping mechanism to refocus when you are feeling depressed. Other similar activities including yoga, massage, acupuncture, meditation, music therapy, and art therapy can help with symptom management, stress relief, and empowerment.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can be disruptive, but there are things you can do today and every day to take control of your mental health. How do you combat SAD? Let us know your strategies in the comments section!