Many people tend to feel a little down during the colder winter months, but if you feel true depression around this time of year every year, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is more than just “winter blues”. SAD can leave you feeling irritable, losing interest in usual activities, making unhealthy eating choices and sleeping more but still feeling lethargic. Left untreated, SAD can lead to other mental health disorders. If you are feeling a little blue or suffering from Seasonal Affected Disorder, try these tips to boost your spirits.
- Plants– Bring the outdoors inside with some potted plants to liven up your home or office with a splash of color. Studies have shown that plants can reduce feelings of anxiety and blood pressure while increasing attentiveness and productivity.
- Aromatherapy– Essential oils can be used for a variety of natural healing capabilities from calming anxiety to lifting your mood and helping you sleep. Add a couple drops of lavender or roman chamomile essential oil to your bath, pillow, pulse points or essential oil diffuser for a positive effect.
- Exercise– While working out has many benefits, one of the best is that it reduces stress and can improve blood pressure. Working out consistently can also leave you feeling more energetic during the day and improve the quality of your sleep. Exercising also releases endorphins, a mood booster made by our bodies.
- Make a schedule– Create a routine for yourself and stick to it. It may be tempting to stay in bed later as the mornings get darker, but by getting up at a regular time you’ll keep your circadian rhythm on track so you’re tired at night and alert in the morning.
- Take a vacation– If you don’t have the luxury to get away to a warm, sunny place, plan a day trip or a staycation. Take a vacation from the week with a mental health day to reduce stress and rejuvenate.
- Get your Vitamin D– In the winter you are likely to experience a vitamin D deficiency, as you are spending less time in the sun. Studies show that SAD is linked to the drop in vitamin D, affecting the serotonin levels. Resupply your vitamin D with supplements or take a walk during your lunch break. If you’re unable to get outside, consider a light therapy box, to activate the brain and help restore your circadian rhythm.
- Start a journal– Writing down your thoughts and feelings is a good way to solve problems and cope with stressful situations. Try writing down events from the day and reflect on them.
- Stick to a healthy diet– When you’re feeling down, you likely gravitate towards eating more refined carbohydrates—they boost levels of serotonin, which makes you feel happy. But while they make you feel good, they’re high in calories and often have little nutritional value. Trade pasta and pizza for leafy greens or fish which can help ease depression symptoms.
If you feel your symptoms are not improving or getting worse, see your primary care physician to discuss further treatment options. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or call 1-800-273-8255 if you being to experience suicidal thoughts.