As winter approaches and the days become shorter, we can sometimes feel a shift in our energy and mood. These seasonal changes can affect the body’s circadian rhythm, which can disrupt our sleep, interests, and energy levels. When experienced for prolonged periods of time, this can often be identified as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It affects 2-3% of Canadians with another 15% that experience a milder form of SAD.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seasonal affective disorder can last anywhere from 4-5 months per year. Symptoms may include feelings of depression, low energy, difficulty sleeping, and more. Last year proved to be quite difficult for me, which is why I started looking for ways to ease this year’s seasonal depression. Here are 6 ways I combat seasonal affective discover.
1) Light Therapy Exposing yourself to artificial light first thing in the morning for at least 30 minutes per day can help regulate your circadian rhythm. Light therapy lamps can be pricey, which is why I purchased mine in the summer for less than $40 on Amazon when they can go for $100+ during this time. I’ve been using my lamp daily and have noticed a huge improvement in my mood, energy levels, and the ability to focus. Be sure to consult your health care provider and discuss whether this will be a suitable option for you.
2) Healthy Foods It’s easy to reach for foods that are convenient or taste good, but when we’re feeling sluggish from seasonal changes, eating unhealthy foods will only make you feel worse. This winter, make sure to stay hydrated, and choose foods that are rich in vitamin D. Health Line recommends incorporating more salmon, tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, and more into your diet.
Deficits in vitamin D may exacerbate these problems because vitamin D is believed to promote serotonin activity. In addition to vitamin D consumed with diet, the body produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight on the skin. With less daylight in the winter, people with SAD may have lower vitamin D levels, which may further hinder serotonin activity.NIMH, Seasonal affective disorder.
3) Exercise It can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise, especially when it’s dark and cold outside. However, moving your body for at least 30 minutes each day can greatly improve your mood, lower your stress levels, improve sleep, and help you feel more energized. It’s times like these I like to get on the treadmill or turn to YouTube for work out videos you can do from home. You’ll be sure to find a video to suit your needs, whether it’s a video for beginners, low impact, sitting down, or no equipment required.
4) Brain Dump Journaling is a powerful tool that allows you to keep track of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. When we put our thoughts onto paper, it relieves the weight of having to replay the same situations or scenarios repeatedly in our heads.
Journaling allows us to reflect on a deeper level. We can choose to write about our goals, organize our thoughts, inspire new ideas, relieve stress, and much more. There is no right or wrong way to journal, it’s a safe place where we can release our innermost thoughts without judgement.Her Digital Coffee, 5 Reasons why you should start journaling.
5) Socialize During the cooler season, we tend to favor staying indoors. However, increased periods of isolation, like we’ve experienced with the pandemic, only hurts our mental health. If the weather allows, consider going for a walk and catch up with friends and relatives. Another alternative is calling or video chatting with your loved ones from home to stay connected.
6) Routine Seasonal changes can throw off our circadian rhythm, which is why it’s so important to stick to a routine. The most important routine is maintaining your sleep schedule. Oftentimes, we either get too much or not enough sleep. I suggest incorporating healthy habits and indulging in some self-care products to help you get a better night’s rest.
If you find yourself still struggling from seasonal affective disorder, consider talking to a health care professional. We all experience things differently, and it’s important to remember that you have support and options to help you through it. Find out how to get help by visiting the Canadian Mental Health Association for resources. For more posts relating to wellness, visit my tag here.