The cold months bring an array of things with them – snow flurries, icicles and blizzards are only a few. But there’s one more thing they bring that isn’t so pleasant, and that’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Researchers estimate this condition affects over 10 million people in the US, while another 10% to 20% suffer from a milder version of it. Its reach is broad and non-discriminating, and you know how tough it can be if you suffer from it.
Luckily, you don’t have to handle it alone. Winter wears on, but you can prevent SAD from making a home in your life. With higher energy and a better mood, you can spend more time enjoying your family. Here are eight ways to kick the depression:
1. Modify Your Diet
You may find yourself reaching for the cheese puffs or chocolate when you’re depressed, but these foods can do more harm than good. Although they work well as comfort eats, they can cause weight gain and lack of energy. These foods lack the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need to stay energized and healthy.
The gut-brain axis shows that what happens in your digestive system connects with your mental health. Swap the unhealthy eats for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. The Mediterranean meal plan emphasises lean meats, dark green vegetables and healthy oils – give it a try.
2. Use Natural Light Boxes
It’s hard to soak up sunlight in the throes of winter. You get up before the sun rises, and you spend all day at work. By the time you go home, the sun is setting. However, you can remedy this sunlight deficit by using a light therapy box. These lighting solutions have an illumination of 10,000 lux and emit a low level of ultraviolet light. You can sit in front of one for long periods without worrying about harmful UV rays.
Going outside and getting some sun is always recommended for fighting depressive symptoms, but light boxes pick up the slack when it’s too dark to get any benefits.
3. Connect With Friends And Relatives
Put on your best outfit and go for a fun outing with some of your friends or relatives. Socializing with others can be a huge pick-me-up when struggling with mental health issues. Connecting with other people gives the feelings of companionship and belonging that depression tries to steal away.
Playing with your kids can be a great alternative to an outdoor outing if you don’t have time to hit the streets. Spending precious moments with your loved ones can take your mind off the worst of your symptoms. Try to create more opportunities for bonding with them.
4. Meditate Or Practice Yoga
Meditation accomplishes what its name says – it helps you slow down and meditate on life. The core principle centres around emptying your mind of all stressors and worries. You don’t have to be perfect on the first go-around. You’ll learn to perceive your situation without judgment and accept emotions without struggling against them or holding onto them.
Yoga is an excellent way to exercise, but it also helps you get in touch with your body. Chasing after kids all day, cooking meals and going to work can take a toll. It’s not uncommon for people to become accustomed to aches and pains and tune them out. Regaining bodily awareness helps you realise how much tension you store within – plus, you learn how to unwind it.
5. Establish A Routine
Yes, it’s understandable. Planning a schedule is the last thing you want to do when you’re depressed. However, it’s worth a try if you haven’t already. Having an established routine gives you something to look forward to each day, and it helps you regain some control over your life. Being disheartened may make you feel like you can’t tip the scales in any direction.
Taking charge of your time can prove that feeling wrong. Set small goals throughout the day and do your best to accomplish them.
Keep your body limber while beating the sadness by working out. Exercising gets your blood pumping and your oxygen flowing, and it also stimulates neurotransmitter release. Yes, those feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine – they’ll make themselves right at home once you hit the gym. Of course, you don’t have to work out at the gym if you prefer privacy. Pick up some weights in your living room, or go running on a nature trail.
7. Fill the Room With Scents
Sweet fragrances aren’t only for the happy times in your life. You can also use them to calm an agitated or stressed mind. Many people practice aromatherapy by using essential oils. Tons of retailers sell them, and they’re very affordable if you look in the right places. Use them with a diffuser to enhance the smell and get double the benefits.
Scientists found that using lavender essential oil on rats alleviated depression-like behaviour as well as improved their neuroplasticity. Studies of women with postpartum depression gave similar results, with the mothers feeling lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety.
8. Talk to Someone
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t find reprieve, consider seeing your primary care doctor or a therapist. There’s no shame in needing some external help to power through rough times, and talking to a professional can be therapeutic. They’ll know what coping techniques to recommend to help you conquer your depressive symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressants, which help your body produce the neurotransmitters it needs.
Shine a Light in a Dark Time
Now that you know a few ways to combat SAD, you can stop it in its tracks before it tries to take over. Reclaim your happiness for yourself, your kids and anyone else in your life who cares about you.