Winter and I don’t get along very well. I get into a seasonal funk that doesn’t fade until the first sign of spring. When the winter days hit, I over-sleep, would rather stay in my pajamas, have a lot less energy, feel sluggish, and don’t want to do anything that requires me to step foot outside. This makes hanging out with friends, and even running errands a serious task.
One of my best friends lives in New York, and she suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so she’s one of the people in my life who truly understands my winter blues. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, particularly winter changes that tend to make people feel depressed and moody, have insomnia and a change in appetite, and thoughts of death or suicide. Winter months are usually dark and gray so the lack of sufficient sunlight can throw off your body’s internal clock, and cause your serotonin and melatonin levels to decrease, which then triggers SAD.
Some people resort to alcohol or drug abuse, social withdrawal, and suicidal thoughts to cope with SAD. Here are a few suggestions to stay on the positive side of things and fight Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Light therapy is a signature and often used method for treating SAD. The purpose is to expose patients to specific wavelengths of artificial light to help replenish what they lose during the dark days of winter. “Symptoms of SAD may be relieved by sitting in front of a light box first thing in the morning, on a daily basis from the early fall until spring. Most typically, light boxes filter out the ultraviolet rays and require 20-60 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light, an amount that is about 20 times greater than ordinary indoor lighting.”
Travel to Warmer Climates
My friend who lives in NY takes a trip to a warm, sunny place once a month from October to April. If finances allow, consider doing the same. Even if you take only one weekend to get away, it could help lift your spirit. Soak up some sun, and feel some warm waves hitting your body with the sand between your toes. You may also want to work toward a life where you can live out the winter months in a warmer climate.
Embrace the Dank, Dark, Cold Weather
At some point in life, we’ve all had to make ourselves do something that we didn’t want to do. Fighting SAD should not be an exception. Although the winter days may keep you inside, push yourself to get out into nature. Bundle up and go hiking or biking, take a walk in the park, or grab a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, and sit outside for a few minutes. It may help to get some crisp, fresh air.
Take Vitamin D Supplements
Although the research isn’t conclusive, vitamin D supplements may help raise levels in the body, especially for people who don’t get enough from sunlight or eat certain foods. People with SAD typically have lower amounts of vitamin D in their systems.
There are clinics with around the country who treat SAD so be sure to use your resources find a treatment center near you.
If you suffer from SAD or have any additional tips to help those who need it, please share in the comments.