Written by Kimberly Hayes
The winter months can be the darkest for us. We may feel down, disconnected, and not understand why. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can affect anyone, especially in climates that have harsher winters. Thankfully, there are ways you can combat its effects and thrive at any time of year, starting with these great tips:
The good news is that SAD is a treatable condition. However, many of us may not be aware we’re experiencing it. As Everyday Health points out, it is not normal to feel sapped of energy, unmotivated, or down during winter. You may gain weight due to cravings for junk foods, or suffer from fatigue. Your stress levels may rise, and you may not know why. You might not be as social and may even think of harming yourself. Your sleep may be affected, either by oversleeping or difficulty getting sleep.
SAD is a form of depression, and it’s one you should take seriously. The reason it happens during the winter months is that you are no longer getting the sunlight you need to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Your body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun, which then helps make serotonin and melatonin — the former is a hormone that regulates mood, with the latter being one that helps us sleep at night. Usually, the pineal gland in the brain releases melatonin to help our bodies get ready for sleep. When there is less daylight, it produces more, which can make us oversleep. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways we can combat SAD.
Getting Light You Need
Expose yourself to what sunlight you have available, but don’t think that’s all you can do. There are foods you can eat that are enriched with vitamin D to help keep your levels stable. Fatty fish are a particular benefit, but so are egg yolks and mushrooms. There are also lamps you can get that mimic sunlight. This is called light therapy, and CNN explains these lamps emit light that is similar to what we get from the sun but without the UV radiation. This way, you can use them safely without fear of burning and help boost your vitamin D production in a natural way.
Practice Self-Care Daily
You may not have the desire or energy to, but practicing self-care can help stave off the worst effects by boosting mood and recharging you. There are many ways you can do this, and only you know what works best. Working out is a good strategy to care for yourself and bump up serotonin levels. Even clearing your home of negative energy and all its forms—clutter, conversation, air quality, and so forth—can help you feel better.
There are also some less physical ways to improve how you feel. Try meditating to combat any rise in stress and depression. You could write thoughts in a journal to aid in redirecting your thoughts to positive things or even brainstorm ways to overcome hurdles. Do things that you enjoy or that shake you out of your doldrums, such as dying your hair, getting new crafting equipment, or playing that one video game you have been eyeing for months. If you enjoy it and it’s healthy, engage with it.
Of course, your downtime might not be the only thing that needs to be addressed; perhaps your work situation is dragging you down. Toxic workplaces can cripple your self-esteem and bleed into every facet of your existence. If that hits close to home, look to programs that can provide much-needed help and support.
Energize Your Life
Energy can flag, so taking steps to restore it is vital. Diet and exercise can play a large role, as gut health can impact how we feel emotionally and physically. However, there are other ways to lift your spirits, in addition to getting in your probiotics. Get out of doors, breathe some fresh air, and make time to socialize with loved ones. Take a few minutes here and there to stretch your muscles, especially when things get tense. Not only are you helping yourself destress by relaxing, but you also can elevate your energy levels doing so. Moving creates energy, and tense muscles can use more energy than relaxed ones. It’s a double boost to how you feel.
Mental health is paramount to physical health. When we don’t feel right emotionally, we may not have the energy or drive to look after ourselves. That’s why it’s important to do what we can, each day, to ensure our mental wellness is seen to.
About the Author
Kimberly works tirelessly to help others find health, happiness and wellness, particularly when battling addiction. As someone who has faced health issues, Kimberly knows what it’s like to feel lost and helpless in the face of adversity. Her website is PublicHealthAlert