It can be quite depressing to have fewer daylight hours in the winter, particularly in the month of February and this type of feeling is actually really common to the point that it has its own disorder.
As per psychiatrist Anisha Patel-Dunn, who is also the chief medical officer of LifeStance Health, we enter what is commonly known as SAD season at the end of October, a period of time when seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects many.
“Seasonal affective disorder is a sort of depression that can last on average about 4 to 5 months. For most people, it’s really fall into the winter,” she says.
Mass layoffs and worries about things like the economy, along with this obvious lack of sunlight, are adding to the strong emotions that surface during this time of year.
SAD is most prevalent during certain periods, but according to Patel-Dunn, it typically peaks from late October to late February.
She also lists a few typical symptoms of SAD as feeling down for the majority of the day for two weeks or longer, not enjoying activities that you used to appreciate, and changes in energy levels, motivation, sleep, or in appetite.
If all of this sounds all too familiar to you, here are some tips on how you can deal with SAD!
- Try to stick to a strict and structured sleeping routine.
What this entails is basically going to bed and waking up at the same time every single day, preferably even during the weekends.
- Make sure you get all the nutrients your body needs.
A healthy diet and avoiding heavy meals before going to bed is essential.
- Spend as much time outside as possible.
Even though it’s usually cold during winter season, you’ll definitely still get many benefits from going on a 30 minute walk every day. Just throw on a winter coat and get some fresh air – you’ll notice your mood improving almost instantly.
Patel-Dunn mentions that according to various studies, “30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise 4 to 5 times a week can impact and improve mood.”
- Avoid alcohol and coffee around your bedtime.
- Avoid using your phone before going to sleep.
That blue light will only interfere with your nightly rest. Maybe grab a book instead.
- Reach out.
If you’re feeling down a lot and have a lot on your mind, do not hesitate to reach out to your loved ones.
Whether it’s a close friend or family member you trust and admire, talking about your feelings with others will almost always leave you feeling better instantly!
- Get professional help.
If nothing else works and things are only getting darker and heavier for you, contact a therapist.
In addition to these tips, Patel-Dunn also recommends getting some actual, physical tools that may help with SAD.
According to Patel-Dunn, using a 10,000 lux light box for half an hour every morning has been shown to be effective in treating SAD.
And if it’s more challenging for you to get out of bed before the sun rises, you can even use sunrise alarm clocks that simulate the colors of a sunrise.
Finally, the expert recommends “a routine of journaling at night, writing down what is making you anxious. I think there as an ability to, even at home, be psychologically introspective, just to have some self awareness and know that some of these simple tools can be really helpful.”