Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to Beat the Winter Blues
SAD can be a serious mental health issue requiring treatment, but it’s mild for some people. Learn more about the disorder and steps you can take to keep your mood on an even keel all year long.
What Is SAD?
SAD is a type of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year and it is more common in women than in men. For most women, the disorder sets in during the fall and continues throughout the winter.
You might feel moody or irritable or sluggish and lacking energy. You might lose interest in normal activities or start to eat more and gain weight. You may sleep more and feel heaviness in your limbs, like it’s just more difficult to get your body going. Symptoms of major depression are also possible if you have SAD, like feeling hopeless and sad, having trouble concentrating, or even feeling suicidal.
How to Beat SAD
Sometimes the winter blues are just that, and in other cases you may have a genuine and serious case of SAD. If you struggle to feel better no matter what you try, you should consider seeing your doctor for treatment recommendations. If your symptoms are mild, these tips could help you get through the winter with a little more bounce in your step:
- Increase your exposure to light. One of the medical treatments for SAD is light therapy. While trying it on your own is not recommended, you can take measures to make sure you are exposed to more light. Lack of sunlight in the winter is a trigger for SAD. Make sure you make your home as sunny as possible. Keep blinds up during the day. Trim trees blocking windows and work near a window if possible. Getting outside for a walk during the day is something you should strive for every day. Even if it’s cold or cloudy, this can help.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great natural energy and mood booster. Aim to get some exercise every day and do it outside whenever possible. Even just a walk each day can help, but push yourself harder if possible.
- Eat and sleep well. Taking care of your physical health is important when you feel the effects of SAD, and this means more than just regular exercise. Eat a healthful diet every day and strive to get an adequate amount of sleep each night.
- Avoid alcohol. It’s easy to turn to alcohol to try to feel better. Many people drink to relax or relieve stress, but if you are feeling depressed, doing so will only make you feel worse. An occasional social drink is fine, but don’t count on alcohol to get you through the winter.
- Try alternative therapies. There are plenty of alternative practices that claim to help with the symptoms of depression. Most are harmless and worth a try to see if they work for you. Try massage therapy, yoga, meditation or acupuncture.
SAD is only seasonal, but when you’re in the thick of it, it can feel never-ending. Monitor your feelings and moods throughout the winter and if your efforts to beat the winter blues don’t work, see your doctor. Treatment is possible and can help you feel better.