If you have experienced a cold winter like we do here in Burlington, you likely have felt seasonal affective disorder (often referred to as seasonal depression) in one way or another. Whether it be full-blown sadness for no reason or becoming more on-edge than usual, these are all normal symptoms of a winter that feels like it's been going on for too long (especially during a pandemic!).
In today’s entry, we are going to go over some tried and tested strategies for overcoming seasonal affective disorder to help you get out of the winter blues so that you can get back to feeling normal. And if you or someone you know could use a nice, bright pick-me-up, grab a fresh flower bouquet from your favorite flower shop in Burlington at Chappell’s Florist today!
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time of year, most commonly during the winter months. This typically occurs due to the fact that there is much less sunlight than in the spring and summer, the temperatures are colder, and we are cooped up inside much more often. Some of the most common symptoms of SAD include:
- Low energy
- Feelings of anxiety, sluggishness, or depression
- Excessive sleeping
- Changes in appetite
Seasonal affective disorder can disrupt your normal routine and cause you to feel “off” or “not yourself.” While symptoms only last a few months out of the year, it can start to take a toll on your health, career, relationships, and other aspects of your life if not handled properly.
Tips for Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder
Fortunately, there are steps you can take in order to manage your SAD symptoms and find the mental relief you need. Some of these tips include:
One of the biggest reasons why people tend to feel more depressed during the winter months is because of the lack of light they get. This is why light therapy is one of the most effective and common treatment methods of SAD. Whether you choose to purposefully take walks during daylight hours or purchase specialized artificial lights for your home, you will likely find light therapy to be effective in improving your symptoms.
Sustaining a healthy diet is critical for both physical and mental health. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying your favorite comfort foods every now and then, try your best to pass on the cake, cookies, and other foods packed with sugar and unhealthy fats as much as possible. Learning how to bake your favorite sweet treats by using healthy alternatives such as coconut sugar or cooking healthy recipes is a great way to feel good both mentally and physically, plus you’ll feel productive for having prepared yourself a healthy meal!
Random Acts of Kindness
While this might sound simple, it truly can make such a huge difference on your mental outlook. Whether it be purchasing coffee for the next person in line at the coffee shop, helping your neighbor shovel their sidewalk, or surprising a loved one with a bright, summer-y bouquet of flowers from your local flower shop, these small acts can go a long way in someone’s life, not only improving your symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, but very likely improving theirs, too!
When you are depressed, the last thing you want to do is become sedentary. While exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing, aerobic workouts can have a major positive effect on your mood and SAD symptoms, especially when done outside in the sunshine or under bright light. When we exercise, endorphins are released and help to balance out sadness and anxiety.
While vitamin D can be consumed through the foods we eat, it may not be high enough of a dose in order to be effective. Consider purchasing a vitamin D supplement or have your doctor prescribe a higher-concentrated version of the vitamin, such as 10,000 IU or 50,000 IU and see how this affects your symptoms.
Discussing your feelings and experiences with a professional counselor, a social worker, or a psychiatrist can help tremendously with getting through these darker days. Therapy can also teach you to recognize triggers and adopt coping skills for depression and anxiety. There is also a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychological treatment that involves efforts to change thinking and behavioral patterns, that has shown promise in treating SAD-related symptoms.
Don’t let the winter blues get you down — by following these tips, you will be on your way to overcoming seasonal affective disorder and enjoying life again, no matter how cold or dark it is outside. If your symptoms don’t seem to improve or even worsen, please remember that help is available. Whether it be reaching out to a close friend or family member, your doctor, or a depression hotline, never forget that you are loved and never alone.