It’s been called many things…
Seasonal Affective Disorder.
But it doesn’t really matter what term you use. That feeling of drab, sluggish, melancholy that can descend during the long winter months is brutal.
If you’ve felt it, you know.
– Absence of passion and desire.
– Difficulty getting started.
– Lack of energy.
– Changes in sleep.
– Cravings and dietary shifts.
– A desperate need for… SOMEthing to change.
The list of symptoms is broad and varies from person to person. But if you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, please never think you’re alone.
You’re not alone.
Research shows that it’s remarkably common. In fact, even though the number of actual diagnoses of full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder is only around 5%, experts estimate that the number of people experiencing milder symptoms could be up to 20%.
Knowing you’re not alone is comforting, isn’t it? But we don’t want to stop at comfort. We want to EMpower you to OVERpower this ugly attacker!
There are dozens of tiny ways you can take action to help yourself. Actually… more like hundreds. Let’s look at a few big ones.
- Get Your Body Moving Outside
Every type of depression responds wonderfully to exercise. Elevated heart rate, respiratory rate, and excretion of toxins via sweat all aid in regulating our moods and emotions.
The wonderful thing about accomplishing it OUTDOORS during your Winter Blues is that you can get the double effect of drinking in the sunshine… also a natural mood lifter.
So go on a walk.
Start a snowball fight.
Get some thrills on a sled.
Find an outdoor ice skating rink.
Strap on the boots and enjoy a winter hike.
Pick up a new winter sport, like cross-country skiing or ice skating.
The possibilities are endless!
But maybe it’s dangerously cold outside. Or the thought alone is just exhausting.
If you can’t find the umph you need to begin with exercise, you may benefit from simply taking a drive and appreciating nature.
There are also natural light lamps available that mimic the waves of the sun. Those can help on those long stretches of overcast days!
- Maintain a Social Life (in whatever form YOU need)
Positive human interaction is known to decrease susceptibility to depression and create a sense of wellness. A study done in 2015 found there was a notable improvement in volunteers that saw friends and family multiple times a week.
Each of us responds differently to social stimuli, of course. We’re all human, but not all social butterflies!
Some may benefit from casual, lighthearted interactions with a large group of acquaintances.
Others gag at that idea but would love to settle in for a deep conversation with a close friend.
Some like getting out and being around others’ energy in public settings.
Others would much rather enter someone’s home for a relaxed evening.
Some enjoy conversations over the phone or in a video chat.
Others don’t really get anything from that and prefer in-person.
Whatever form is best for YOU is the one you should practice this winter!
- Practice Hygge Indoors
While those two activities are great, this idea may end up being your favorite.
It’s a Danish word, “Hygge”, and is pronounced “Hoo-guh”. The Oxford Dictionary had it on their short-list for Word of the Year in 2016 but there isn’t an exact English translation. Just know that it’s allllll about the cozy and pleasurable parts of life.
It’s been called “healthy hedonism”… because when you hygge you’re wrapping yourself in a tight hug and indulging the senses with what warms your heart. Brownie points if you practice hygge alongside others!
It translates to every season, but in winter it can be especially important because practicing it can lift the effects of SAD.
Snuggle by a fire with a drink. Stare at the flames.
Put on soothing music. Wear your slippers. Bake a cake.
Journal next to a flickering candle. Breathe deeply and notice its scent.
Run a steaming bath and use the salts. Do the facemask. Slather on the lotion.
Make the most decadent hot chocolate ever. Use your favorite mug. Don’t forget the whipped cream.
Believe that you are worth the effort to find comfort and give yourself a hygge hug!
With all that being said, there’s one last tip.
If your “Winter Blues” just won’t quit.
If they extend beyond the season.
If they’re ruining your way of life.
If you find that nothing helps.
Please… Ask for help.
Sometimes, less is more.
Yes, maybe you need to get some exercise or see some friends. Maybe it’s a day to practice hygge. But if you’re self-aware enough to know you’ve hit your limit of exertion, commitments, or even will to indulge…
Sometimes, no amount of sunshine, friendly banter, or cozy blankets can override our bodies.
And THAT’S OKAY.
There is NO shame in asking for help.
In fact, it’s one of the bravest things you can do. So talk to a therapist or see a doctor if you need help fighting your Seasonal Affective Disorder.
We may not be able to control everything life throws at us. But there are actionable steps we can take towards the life we want. Let’s take them!
Be free, friends.