How to Beat the winter blues for 2021-2022
Are you SAD with your daily life? Does it seem like this is a more recent occurrence? Has your mood dropped recently and you’re not really sure why. Could your mood shift be because of the shorter days? If your answers to the above queries is yes, then you could be someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). There are many lifestyle changes and habits that you can adopt to treat seasonal affective disorder.
In the US, around 5% of the adult population experiences SAD for up 40% of a year. Of course there are variabilities in how long people feel the symptoms of the disorder. If we consider the numbers, then this problem can affect the 11 million US population every year. More than 25 million Americans suffer from a milder form of it known as winter blues.
The most difficult months for US residents are January and February when they feel mood changes and symptoms related to depression. Part of this is probably because with the holiday season being over, there are fewer events to highlight your life in those months. In this article, you will find several solutions for how to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder by yourself.
Scroll down to try out some of these 23 actions to help alleviate feelings of sadness at this time of year.
Emily Dickinson said,
“There’s a certain slant of light.”
Modern day analysts think that she probably suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), although in her time period people didn’t know of this disorder, beyond anything other than the winter blues.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a considered part of Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern. It is a recognized mental disorder as a part of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders). I am not a therapist or licensed mental health worker, so please consult with a licensed professional if you are in need of a medical diagnosis or treatment.
It is believed that the main cause of SAD is due to the chemical change inside our brain from having less daylight hours and shorter days in winters. Your body creates more melatonin (a hormone that promotes sleep) in a dark environment. With winter you have darker days, hence there is a higher possibility of SAD occurring.
Another related factor is people experience a change in their circadian rhythm (your biological internal clock) from the change in light and in the season. Your daily schedule could be disturbed from this change.
It can happen at any age but people of ages 18-30 have more chances of suffering from SAD. It is usually found in adults and its risk increases with the growing age. Interestingly, women are more prone to affect by it than men. Lucky ladies, (insert eyeroll). Some experts think it might happen due to certain hormones in the brain. These hormones trigger attitude-related changes only at specific times of the year.
What are the Symptoms?
The common signs of SAD are;
- Anxiety, irritability, thoughts of suicide or death.
- Purposeless physical activities like handwringing, or pacing.
- Loss of pleasure and interest in your favorite activities.
- Difficulty in thinking.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Feeling hopeless or guilty of something.
- More sensitivity to rejection and social withdrawal.
- Daytime drowsiness, and increase in sleep time.
- Problem in concentration, less able to focus.
- Low energy level, or fatigue.
- Weight gain.
- Increased appetite, cravings for carbohydrates, and sweets.
- Physical health issues like headaches.
These symptoms can occur, improve, and then come back during the same time of the year.
However, the above cases do not guarantee that you are suffering from SAD since these symptoms can occur with other mental health problems as well.
Mental health professionals, like a therapist or psychiatrist, can carefully evaluate your situation and look for your medical history before confirming this condition.
So, in case of any confusion, do not hesitate to meet with a healthcare provider.
How to treat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?
Your first response could be to treat SAD by yourself. Why not try some of these solutions and see if they help decrease your feelings of sadness or being glum?
Most of these do take some time (although I notice a difference from turmeric-saffron supplements within just 3-4 days). See what you notice and consider keeping a mood journal to reflect on how you feel and your progress. Following are some DIY solutions to treat SAD;
1) Sunlight – Try to spend more time near a window or outside for direct exposure to the natural light. I try to get outside while the sun is higher in the sky- so midday is the best time for me. If I can’t get out midday, I get outside whenever I can to have the sun on my face.
2) Light Therapy – Depending on life and work circumstances, you may only be able to increase your exposure to sunlight so much. Many people treat SAD by spending a certain amount of time each day in front of a special light. There are special therapy lights designed specifically to sit on a counter or desk and to bath you in light. You will want to look for the one which emits full spectrum light.
3) Take turmeric and saffron supplements, or eat these two spices everyday.
4) Try to be more social. Avoid spending time alone or being secluded away day after day. This is a personal preference, as some of us like more alone time than others, but it is also true that when people are feeling SAD, they can have a tendency to self-isolate.
5) Take Vitamin D as a supplement. You’ll need to talk to a nautropath or MD to work on your correct dosage. Your body metabolizes Vitamin D in sunshine, so taking extra Vitamin D can help compensate for the lack of sunshine.
6) Experiment with having LOTS of indoor plants! You may also want to bring in grow lights for your plants, which will add extra light to your space.
7) Maintain a balanced diet, with lots of colorful fruit, vegetables, grains, and spices. Its a simply thing, but eating antioxidants and vitamins will make you feel better overall.
8) Exercise regularly, perform yoga or meditation. I found that 15 minutes minimum is what is the smallest manageable amount of exercise where I notice the positive effects.
9) There might be certain tasks that boost your mood like watching movies, gardening, cooking, or other activities. Schedule these at least once a week.
10) Find a greenhouse or sunroom where you can spend extra time soaking up the sun.
11) Make a happy cozy space in your home by a fire or with tea or books or plants nearby. Learn about Hygge. Make the inside of your home more warm and cozy. Bring out the cozy blankets.
12) Think positive. Check out some of my other articles about how to increase your positive thoughts in your life. Have some patience to avoid negative thoughts and depression.
13) Fill aspects of your life with vibrant happy colors. Art work in the home, bright throws instead of fall/winter themed, bright pillows. You might experiment with wearing bright colorful clothing
14) Cultivate more happy cold weather memories. If you do not already have good memories of activities you do at this time of the year, start new traditions that you do every November or January. Something special that makes you feel good and you can look forward to.
15) Try to be nice to others, help them. In return, you will feel better. This could be a good time to start volunteering weekly.
16) Do not make big decisions until it affects you mentally or make you feel depressed. Observe your situation in a more objective way or discuss it with a trusted person in your contacts. It is needed before deciding what to do in significant transition cases like taking the divorce, getting married, or changing jobs.
17) Set realistic goals, break large milestones into smaller tasks, set priorities, and start working on them.
18) Take help or suggestions from your family or good friends whenever you can.
19). Take B multivitamins. When under stress, your body uses up B vitamins. By replenishing your b vitamins, you give your body the resources to respond to new stresses from a place of balance.
20) Embrace this time of the year. Change up the decor. Look for new flavors of tea. Use candles, I use the battery operated kind that turn on automatically on a timer. Try mixing different fall oil blends in air diffusers.
21) Do a deep fall cleaning early in the season and declutter your home to make it feel extra good.
22) Decline using drugs or alcohol as a daily practice. Personally, if you are addicted to hard drugs, I encourage you to seek the best help possible and detox. Your life is worth so much more than to risk it.
23) Adopt a new religious or spiritual practice. Doing mindfulness, prayer, or meditation can increase your feelings of well-being.
Now you don’t have to try to implement these all at once- I mean, who would have the time and energy for that?!?! My suggestion is to pick 2-4 that sound doable and try them out. Once you see how they work, add something else from this list in a month.
Be sure to pin this article if you want to remember it and come back to it.
Feeling better is not going to happen suddenly so give some time to your mood to be better day by day.
When in Doubt, Seek Professional Medical Help
Remember, these actions might take some time, but there are good chances that you will see some improvement. If you aren’t noticing enough improvement, please seek more help. See a healthcare expert to treat your depression sooner possible. They might also suggest doing the following:
Your health care expert can prescribe you medication. These therapy options can potentially to help you regain the chemical balance in your brain. A common antidepressant is SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
You can go for interpersonal or Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT or Talk therapy is an effective solution to treat SAD. It can help you change your views about yourself or things around you. Sometimes people fall into distorted views of life and a professional is an incredible resource to help you see more objectively and kindly towards yourself and your life. You can better manage your stress by realizing its causes.
Why you should not Neglect it?
Although no clear cause of Social Affective Disorder has been identified yet, if you are suffering from SAD, do not ignore it.
SAD can become more pronounced. Depression is not something to be ignored. Depression invites other health conditions if left untreated. It could impact your relationships, lead to mood disorders (anxiety or substance abuse), or even increase your risk of heart disease.
You don’t want to neglect treating SAD. Honestly, it is important to pay attention and value your quality of life. If you don’t use the tips here for treatment, consider seeking professional help.
Mild symptoms might make you feel cranky or out of sorts, when the condition gets worse, then it will surely affect your work and relationships.
How to identify if you are suffering from SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is of two types;
– Summer Depression (Spring-onset) – It is a less common type of symptom that happens between late spring and early summer.
– Winter Depression (Fall-onset) – It starts from late fall, remains till early winters, and eases in summers.
There are chances that the problem of SAD can be misdiagnosed. It can happen if a person is already suffering from any other mood disorder. The list includes infectious mononucleosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, and more.
Take good care of yourself and your loved ones!
For other articles on lifestyle changes to improve your happiness, you can check out this one on finding the positive in the present or this one on less is more, or 10 ways to get out of a bad mood.