Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real and far more common than most of us realize. The other day a friend verified just how real it is when she stated “SAD, of course it’s real, how could it be possible for anyone NOT to have it when you live in places that get hit hard with cold winters?!” During the months when we are given warmer temps and sunshine, we are able to soak in so much of what nature has to offer, and then, what feels like overnight, it’s cold, it’s dark, and our shoulders are locked in a tense and hunched position when battling what feels like the frozen tundra. Yes, SAD is real, legit, bona fide, it no doubt exists. So, I am a big believer in facing things head on, owning it and taking action to get the most positive results out of any situation.
Below I have some simple steps to face the winter blues head on. But also know that there is never any shame in reaching out for help. When we keep things bottled up inside, most times the negative thoughts become more overwhelming and scarier than ever! Reach out to family, friends or professionals for support. Sending lots of love and positive moods your way ❤️
This may be the last thing you want to do, but a little fresh air and sunshine always seems to do the trick. Bundle up and go take your dog for a walk, meet up with a friend or take a mindful walk by yourself. It’s so crucial to get every ounce of vitamin D that you can with these shortened days! For those of you who are avid skiers, snowshoers, or any outdoor winter activity; the fresh air and social aspects of these sports are a huge bonus to warding off SAD.
Warm yourself up from the inside out! Get your blood-flowing, create a more clear mindset, and raise your heart rate and mood. Try a workout class with a friend, some hot yoga, or get some fresh air with a run outside! Choose a way to move your body that brings you joy and leaves you feeling stronger and more energized.
Make plans with friends to meet for coffee, go for a walk (and hit the first three points all at once!), or even just talk over the phone. Having someone to talk to and/or hold you accountable makes getting through these frigid days and getting done the items on your to-do-list far easier. Also, having something to look forward to might just keep you going throughout the week.
4. Eat Well
Eating colorful, whole foods with lots of vitamins and minerals will not only lift your mood by providing the nutrients your brain and body need to function well, but also by adding a little color to your day. There’s something about a meal filled with all the colors of the rainbow that instantly makes me feel better. Make sure to include foods rich in selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, the amino acid tryptophan, vitamin B-12 and D, and complex carbohydrates. Some of these foods include: lean protein, flax seeds, eggs, nutritional yeast, almonds, walnuts, leafy greens, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, oranges, fortified cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, and soybeans and many more!
(Keep an eye out for a blog on the benefits of eating all the colors of the rainbow coming soon!)
5. Take your supplements
You may have heard that you should take a vitamin D supplement especially during the winter when there is less daylight. But something you may not have heard is that you should be taking this along with a vitamin K supplement. Vitamin D cannot be readily absorbed into the bloodstream without vitamin K. My favorite way to get these nutrients is in this super convenient (flavorless) dropper. Just four to five drops a day and you get all the vitamin D and K you need at the perfect ratio.
Vitamin B (and more specifically, vitamin B-12) is another important supplement that aids brain function. Having a high quality multivitamin that contains vitamin B-12 or a Vitamin B Complex supplement are the best ways to get the amount that you need. As I mentioned before, there are some foods that contain vitamin B-12, but most people are still deficient because they contain relatively low amounts.
6. Stick to a schedule
Going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same time every day is another way to fight symptoms of seasonal depression. Creating a consistent schedule and getting 6-8 hours of sleep every day will allow your body to get used to a pattern it can rely on. Sleeping too much or too little and at unusual times can lead to lethargy and lack of motivation. When it’s dark by 4:30, it’s easy to just go right home, get into comfy clothes, and not want to do anything for the rest of the day. If you do this, you may notice that you’re more tired a lot earlier in the day. This is likely because you’re sending messages to your body that it’s time to start winding down for bed. I suggest creating an evening routine for when you do want to start sending those messages and not starting this until about an hour before going to sleep. Turn off electronic devices, turn down the lights, light some candles, read a book, do something that tells your body it’s time to go to bed.
7. Seek professional help
If you feel that what you are dealing with is something you can not tackle on your own, there is never any shame in reaching out for professional help. Having a friend or family member who you feel comfortable talking to is so great, but sometimes speaking with a doctor or therapist might give you more constructive and concrete ways to approach things.
If you are struggling with SAD, just know you have company. Let’s take these winter blues head on and work through the tough times together. Last year, I heard a talk by a well-known psychologist and he said something that has continued to stick. He said, “One of the best things you can say to someone going through a tough time is ‘I know how it feels to be down’ or ‘I know how it feels to….’ whatever it is, whatever any one is going through, we have all had our struggles in life and one way or another and it always helps to know you are not alone.