With the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer, colder and darker, do you feel down or depressed? If you do, you are not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a real diagnosis that between 3 and 5% of the US population experience during the winter months. We think that SAD is triggered by the decreased number of daylight hours during winter and made worse by cold temperatures.
How can you tell if you are suffering from SAD or just having a bad day? The symptoms of SAD include:
- Sleeping excessively and beyond your usual number of hours
- Not being able to concentrate at work or school
- Feeling extremely fatigued even if you are getting enough sleep
- Gaining weight because you have frequent cravings, especially for sugary foods
- Not having the motivation to go about your daily activities
If you feel that you may be suffering from some of these symptoms, do not worry! Luckily, there are proven ways to overcome winter blues. Here some of the most recommended techniques:
- Light therapy: Since we know that the lack of light contributes to SAD, we can add more light to our lives during the winter months. You can buy light therapy lamps or boxes that are known to be effective. Or, you can increase your time in the light by trying to spend more time outdoors when the sun is out or redesigning your space at home or work to increase your exposure to sunlight, e.g. switching to sheer curtains or moving your desk/bed closer to the windows.
- Exercise: As with most other health conditions, exercise is a natural treatment strategy. Exercise can help to naturally balance your hormone levels, reducing the effect the lack of sunshine can have on them. So, whether it’s by working out at home or going for a morning jog, try to add some movement in your life to keep your moods up.
- Eat well: SAD can cause you to eat more than your usual, especially in sugars. Eating more sugar or carbs means that your body releases more insulin, a hormone which can have a negative effect on your mood. You can help yourself by replacing sugars or simple carbs such as bread, pasta or rice with healthier foods rich in protein and good fats.
- Vitamins: Since our exposure to the sun decreases during the winter months, and one of our primary sources of vitamin D is sunshine, it’s a good idea for everyone to supplement with Vitamin D supplements. Other good nutrients that can help with SAD symptoms include omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B.
And if you just can’t handle the thought of a long, cold winter this year, consider investing in a trip to some place warm over the holidays to get away from it all for a few days. That will give you something to look forward to and some much-needed sunshine!
So this year, with these strategies to deal with symptoms of SAD, you can hopefully start your winter on a brighter note and not let the winter blues get to you.