Author: Kate Clements / Category: Health / Published: Nov-05-2018
Seasonal Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression triggered by the change of seasons. It typically occurs during the winter season due to lack of sunlight, limited time outdoors, and shorter days. Many people will often brush it off and try to trudge through it alone, though seasonal depression and its effects are very real. It deserves to be acknowledged and treated like the depression that it is.
While the type of treatment differs based on the specific type of person, I've compiled a list of 5 different coping mechanisms that have helped me get through winter as happy and healthy as possible.
Some may work for you, some may not. Use this article to help figure out what can help you, whether it's diet, exercise, or professional help.
Get 20 minutes of sunshine a day
One of the most common side effects of Vitamin D deficiency is depression. Our bodies desperately need vitamin D to function correctly, and it's one of the vitamins our body doesn't create by itself. You can get vitamin D through fish, egg yolk, and milk, but not nearly as much as your body needs. The quickest way for your body to get the right amount is to expose bare skin to ultra-violet rays, aka the sun. In the winter, you're less likely to go outside, and when you do, you're completely bundled up. Getting outside for 20 minutes, with even just your cheeks exposed, can raise your vitamin D levels to a healthy amount. You don't have to do it all at once, take a few breaks, take a short walk! It's also a great excuse to get up and moving.
Find a winter activity you enjoy
I'm from the South where our winters consist of a day or two with 2-3 inches of snow, so when I moved to Michigan, I was snow shocked. It took me a few years, but I finally found out that I really enjoy sledding and snow tubing. Finding fun things to do in the winter helped me feel less like I was being buried, because I had activities to look forward to. Getting out of the house and moving around was a God send. I also learned there are tons of activities you can do in the winter. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, building snowmen, making snow candy, even bird watching is fun! Find something you enjoy that gets you out of your house or office. It doesn't even have to be outside! A coffee break next to a sunny window is a great option.
"Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don't kill their husbands. They Just don't." - Legally Blonde, 2001.
These are wise words from Elle Woods we can all follow this time of year. Exercise is one of the best ways to pull your brain out of its winter blues. It doesn't matter how you chose to do it, as long as you get at least 15-30 minutes of activity that raises your heart rate. You can go to the gym to do some cardio and weights, or if you're not so much about that gym rat lifestyle, you can do some cardio yoga, Zumba, or even dance along with YouTube videos. Get your heart pumping and release some of those endorphins. Your body and brain will thank you.
One of the most tempting, but dangerous, things to do when struggling with depression is isolating yourself. Bad winter weather doesn't help much either. I used to go days without leaving my house or seeing anyone, because the roads were bad. Once I started forcing myself (yes I say force, because it was just easier to haul up inside alone) to get out and exist among people, I started to feel much better. Just going to a bar for an hour or inviting people over to watch a movie can help you feel less isolated. Even if you prefer not to really spend time with other people, just sitting at a coffee shop, or a library can really help you get out of your own head.
Talk to your doctor
If nothing else seems to work for you, and you just can't seem to get out of the mud, call your doctor. There are plenty of medications that can help with short term depression. Going to therapy a few times a month, and talking out what you're feeling can really help too. Who knows, maybe there's an underlying medical reason that you've been feeling so crumby. Your doctor can help you find a treatment plan that works for you. I personally know how hard it can be to ask for help, but there is nothing to be ashamed of. Seasonal Depression is just as real as catching the flu, and we are so lucky to live in a time where we have resources to help it. If you are worried about the cost of a doctors appointment, or don't have medical insurance, check out your local free clinic. They often have Nurse Practitioners you can talk to that can get you set up with a treatment plan, or therapists on hand that you can schedule a time to talk with.