It’s that time of year. The holidays are over and it’s back to reality. You’ve returned to school or work and are trying to get back into a “normal” routine. If you are feeling run down, tired, lethargic, and unmotivated you may have a case of the winter blues. Don’t worry, you are not alone! Most everyone feels like this from time to time. If after a couple weeks you are not feeling better it could be a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or depression.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is believed to be caused by the changing seasons and lack of sunlight. Typically, symptoms begin to worsen in the fall and peak during the winter months. Symptoms of SAD are similar to that of other forms of depression, including feelings of hopelessness, lack of concentration, social withdrawal, and fatigue.
If you have been diagnosed with depression or SAD it may be time to seek professional help. The earlier the treatment, the more effective. Treatments for SAD include light therapy, a healthy diet, exercise, relaxation, and counseling and medication. For more ideas for treatment for living with SAD click here.
If it’s a case of the winter blues, it should pass. In either case it’s important to be kind to yourself, implement self-care techniques, and seek professional help if symptoms do not improve. Here are a few tips to help shake your winter blues:
If you feel like the lack of sunlight really does affect you, Light Therapy Treatment is an easy way to boost your light intake. Other options include getting outdoors if possible up to 20-30 minutes a day or taking vitamin D supplements after consulting with your doctor.
Eat mood boosting foods
Eat mood-boosting foods such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries may help prevent the release of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland, lean foods high protein like turkey, chicken, omega-3 fatty acids (flax seeds, walnuts and salmon), foods with folic acid that can be found in leafy greens, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, oranges, fortified cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, and soybeans.
Exercise is one of the best mood boosters. It’s difficult to get motivated when you are feeling tired, so find something you enjoy whether it’s walking, yoga, running or spinning or zumba class. If you can find a workout partner or an accountability partner that will help with motivation.
Meditation helps to focus and quiet your mind, while increasing your level of awareness and inner calm. There are many ways to meditate including: breathing techniques, guided visualization and mindfulness. If possible, start with a few minutes a day. There is a great app called Headspace that can be downloaded and used anywhere.
Plan something fun
Get together with friends or make plans for future fun activities and events. Studies have shown that anticipating a fun event may even bring just as much or more happiness that experiencing the event. Most importantly, it’s experiences rather than items that boost our mood.
Everyone can feel down from time to time in the winter months and the worst thing you can do for yourself is feel like you should always be happy. Take time to focus on yourself. Do things that make you happy and feel calm such as reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, or taking a bath. Reflect on what you want most for yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself.
- mayoclinic.org – Seasonal Affective Disorder
- psychologytoday.com – Light Therapy
- heathline.com – Food Tips to Ease Winter Blues
- headspace.com – What is meditation?
- nytimes.com – How to meditate
By: Allison West Kaskey M.Ed., Eds., LPCC-S