When the days are shorter and the temperatures are colder, the time for Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately abbreviated as SAD) is nigh.
You’re probably familiar with SAD, whether you realize it or not. It’s a depression that totally depletes your energy and positivity, and is largely dependent on the season. It makes you want to crawl under the blankets and curl up forever (and not in a cute way). As someone who wrestles with this annoying occurrence on a yearly basis, I know that it can often just feel like a hopeless slump in the year, when the only bright spot is going home for the holidays.
But! It’s not hopeless! I promise!
There are some easy changes you can make in your lifestyle that will make seasonal depression seem slightly less inevitable, and perhaps alleviate it altogether. Here are some options that might be worth looking into:
1. Get a light therapy lamp.
Sitting in front of a bright, light therapy lamp for 30 minutes per day helps to suppress your body’s release of melatonin, which can prevent you from feeling sleepy and lethargic. Best of all, these lamps are usually fairly easy to set on a desk, so you can potentially get your “sunbathing” in while you’re at work!
2. Talk to a therapist or psychiatrist.
Ugggh, I know. Actually scheduling an appointment to talk about your mental health can feel almost impossible, particularly when you’re already in the throes of depression. (It’s a vicious cycle.) However, having an objective ear to spill your feelings to can really be cathartic, and you’ll be happy you asked for help. A mental health professional will also be able to determine if your Seasonal Affective Disorder is severe enough to warrant antidepressants.
3. Try out aromatherapy in your home.
Aromatherapy can help to stimulate the part of your brain responsible for affecting your moods, and can even act as an anti-depressant. Get a little essential oil diffuser to relax your brain and make your apartment smell like a luxurious spa — it’s a win-win!
4. Get some exercise outside of your apartment.
While exercise in any form is beneficial, doing yoga in your room isn’t going to lift your spirits quite as much as going to the gym, taking a class, or even going for a walk outside. Exercise will naturally improve your mood, and will also help to prevent you from getting too sedentary in your seasonal depression (which is highly possible, considering the amount of Netflix binge-watching that occurs).
5. Try to get outside more in general.
Speaking of going outside — do it!
It doesn’t even have to be for exercise purposes. But, getting plenty of sunshine and fresh air (or as much as possible in your respective climate) can be key to fighting seasonal depression. If it’s possible to get up early and go outside for a walk, or take a bit of a stroll on your lunch break, take advantage and get your fill of the outdoors. Curling up under the covers, while tempting, is definitely not the way out of your funk.
6. Keep a regular sleep schedule.
Personally, depression frequently makes it difficult for me to go to bed at a reasonable hour — which subsequently makes me groggier in the mornings, thereby perpetuating the sense of apathy and listlessness. (I really wasn’t kidding when I called this a vicious cycle.) Getting in the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time will help you to feel well-rested, and will combat those darned winter blues.
7. Start journaling every day.
Having a daily outlet for your thoughts and feelings can offer some release from those toxic feelings of inadequacy — and it will help you to keep that bedtime routine, as mentioned above! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to write a certain number of pages, or get too precious about how “good” your writing should be. Just write as much or as little as feels natural.
8. Get plenty of Vitamin D.
(*Insert inappropriate joke here*)
Okay, but really: Vitamin D is essential to your well-being, and not getting enough of it is one of the main contributors to Seasonal Affective Disorder. While getting more sunshine can solve this dilemma, you can also take Vitamin D supplements. (Which is what I prefer to do, since they come in gummy form and are kind of delicious.)
9. Say “yes” to social outings.
I know. It’s hard. All you want to do is lay in bed or on your couch and be a slug. And that’s okay! But, it’s also important to peel yourself out of your comfort zone and take part in social activities, even if it feels impossible. Believe it or not, interacting with your friends will actually make you (*gasp*) happier!
10. Limit your caffeine consumption.
Sure, drinking your morning cup(s) of coffee will give you an initial energy boost — but by the afternoon, you’re apt to feel miserable when you finally crash. Help yourself to wake up by eating a good breakfast or drinking some orange juice, and limit the number of caffeinated beverages you consume in a week.
11. Adopt at least one creative hobby.
I mean, did you really need an excuse to start painting your most bizarre dreams or making sculptures out of the random stuff you find while cleaning your apartment? If so, Seasonal Affective Disorder may actually be a blessing in disguise — because creative pursuits are absolutely necessary for overcoming seasonal depression. You don’t need to be an artist, you just need to find something interesting and fun and stick with it! Try crocheting, try whittling, or even try learning an instrument. Anything that allows you to have a fun task to accomplish at home (other than sleeping) will be a welcome improvement.
12. Drink less alcohol.
Alcohol is typically a depressant (even if you feel jolly while you’re consuming it). Drinking more is certainly not going to magically alleviate your winter depression, nor is it going to improve your outlook on life. I’m not saying you need to avoid having fun at all costs, but maybe pace yourself during the week and only allow yourself to drink on a particular night. It might cost you a bit of fun, but it will certainly be worth it when you can actually go an entire day without wanting to crawl back into bed and hibernate there for eternity.
Also, remember that you’re not alone in this, and that if you ever need to talk about it, my DMs are open. (Okay, cheesy rant is over, I promise.)