“I feel fine physically I guess,” I say to my doctor, “just a little more tired than normal.” He looks at me knowingly. I suspect he’s heard this before from other patients. “And your social life…how’s that going?” he asks. “Meh…” I respond. “Haven’t really been in the mood to hang out lately. Don’t really feel like being around people.” He nods. “Your tests all came back perfect. So yes, you’re fine physically.” He pauses. “But I believe you have what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder.” I nod back. I had already diagnosed myself years ago, but this was the first time it was being confirmed by a professional.
It starts around mid-October, early November. Just around the time when we set our clocks back. A depression that lasts for roughly five months out of the year thanks to shorter days and longer nights. Some call it SAD, some call it the winter blues, but many of us suffer from it without realizing why we feel the way we feel. It’s a seasonal struggle brought on by lack of sunlight and endless days of “winter gloom.” It comes with irritability, moodiness, low energy, loss of interest in regular activities, feelings of hopelessness and changes in appetite and sleep patterns. Every year I try to find ways to survive it until April. Some years are easier than others.
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
I come alive in the spring and summer. There’s just something about long days and direct sunlight….but….shriveling up like a dried flower for five months is no way to live. There are ways to conquer the winter blues. However, if you have not been professionally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and your feelings of sadness last beyond the winter months, please pay your doctor a visit. All types of depression are serious and should be treated as such.
10 Ways to Conquer Seasonal Affective Disorder
Believe me, I know how difficult it is to get moving when you have zero motivation. It takes a lot of determination to get yourself out of bed to exercise in the morning when it’s below 30 degrees and still dark outside. Try exercising in the evening, after work. I recommend cardio. If you’re not a morning person like me, your energy level is much higher towards the end of the day.
Yoga and Meditation:
If you’ve read my post on meditation, then you know I’m a huge advocate. Thanks to my Whole Life Challenge, I have been practicing yoga and meditation together. I usually start by sitting in bed, focusing on my breath for about 15 minutes, and then I spend another 15 minutes doing yoga. I absolutely love the Gaiam Yoga Studio App. You can schedule your practice for the week right on your iPad or phone.
Clean up your diet:
Eating healthy is great for your body period. But it also improves your mood and energy level. Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to sap your energy, making you feel tired and fatigued. So stocking up on energy-rich foods such as whole grains, leafy veggies, bananas, nuts and fish is a good idea.
Take your Vitamin D:
My doctor recommends that I take 1000IU of Vitamin D daily, especially during the winter months. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin, and its deficiency is said to be linked to depression. There are of course many other great reasons to up your intake, including the strength and protection of your bones.
Go outside and get some sunlight:
Take your lunch hour. Get outside during the daylight hours and walk around for a bit. Believe me, it makes a difference. Keep your serotonin levels up by catching a bit of sunlight daily. It improves your mood and lowers your risk for SAD.
This light box or lamp gives off artificial light that mimics sunlight, and is usually recommended for people who specifically suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have yet to try this myself, but my doctor strongly advises that I buy one, so maybe I’ll test it out soon.
Consulting a Psychotherapist for any form of depression is always a smart move. It is the best way to change your way of thinking and learn coping skills for behaviors that don’t serve you well. As someone who has gone through cognitive behavioral therapy for my anxiety, I can honestly say that it has helped me significantly.
Essential oils can help elevate your mood. Try citrus oils like orange, bergamot and lemon, or floral like jasmine. Aromatherapy has long been known for its calming and uplifting benefits.
Some people benefit from anti-depressants. Only a licensed doctor can recommend the appropriate medication for you should he/she decide that you need it.
Talk to friends and family:
As much as i want to curl up in bed most days and hibernate, I make a conscious effort to reach out to my family and friends. It’s amazing how one conversation can change your whole vibe. Some days it takes the world of effort to get out and socialize with friends, but I’m always glad when I do. Interacting with people who love and care for you can make the world of difference.