Experts describe the winter blues disorder as a subset of depression with symptoms like anxiety, apathy, general discontent, loneliness, loss of interest, mood swings, or sadness which start to occur in Autumn and Winter. More than five percent of people in the United States suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—also referred to as the winter blues. While often joked about, the seasonal affective disorder is a very real mental health problem and can make the cold months of the year difficult for millions of people.
If you live North of the equator, Winter means less sunlight, worse weather, and shorter days. This can cause you to experience some o the symptoms of winter blues which can be difficult to cope with.
Some other symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are increased tiredness, increased appetite for high carbohydrate food, less energy, and frequent mood swings. Some of these symptoms are brought on by the elevated melatonin in the body and a lack of Vitamin D. If the cold weather and the earlier than usual nightfall are causing you to feel the winter blues these helpful suggestions will help you cope with the symptoms.
Get Moving with Exercise
Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that reduce pain, increase feelings of well-being and energy levels. It improves the quality of our sleep and reduces anxiety. Particularly if you’re trying to cope with the winter blues low-impact aerobic exercises are best. This can include yoga, running, and swimming. Exercising in the morning can restart our circadian rhythm which is the 24-hour cycle our body follows. Researchers believe that our circadian rhythm can reduce the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as the changes in our environment misalign our wake and sleep cycles, thus affecting our mood.
If you suffer from seasonal depression or the winter blues, your natural instinct may be to stay in and cancel social plans. Isolation can worsen all types of depression, and in particular seasonal affective disorder which is associated with loneliness. Colder weather can often make socializing less appealing so people are more inclined to stay indoors and this worsens the symptoms. Social contact triggers neurotransmitters that help to combat symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you can’t meet with friends of loved ones due to COVID-19, a phone call or video chat will also help boost your mood.
As mentioned above, the darker mornings can misalign our circadian rhythm. Light Therapies or SAD lamps simulate natural light to trigger our brains into releasing serotonin— the feel-good hormone. Studies show that using light therapies on the shorter days of the winter months can help to adjust our sleep-wake cycle. On top of these light therapies, if you suffer from the winter blues you should prioritize getting outside, especially on days that aren’t cloudy to get as much natural light as possible.
In addition to the seasonal affective disorder lamps, a great solution for this form of depression is a dawn simulator. This type of Alarm clock doesn’t wake you up with the typical beeping and ringing we are accustomed to, but with a natural light that gradually gets brighter to mimic the sun. Since a major cause of seasonal affective disorder is darker mornings, waking up with a dawn simulator is another way to kick start your circadian rhythm.
Feel Revitalized with Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes. When you inhale these essential oils, they can travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and the amygdala which is the emotional center of the brain. In particular, lavender oil, peppermint oil, and lemon oil have been linked to lowering levels of anxiety and depression and boosting mood. You can use these essential oils with an aromatherapy diffuser.
Talk to your Doctor
Most importantly, if you think you are suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you should contact your doctor or a mental health professional to get professional help. It’s also quite common to be deficient in Vitamin D if you suffer from SAD. You may want to confirm you are suffering from seasonal depression rather than a different form of depression, so it’s a good idea to check that out and get some help and advice from your doctor.
A word from Clever-ish
These suggestions are here to help you deal with the symptom of seasonal depression. These are tips on adjustments you can make to your lifestyle. If your symptoms are not manageable, please seek professional help by scheduling an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional.