December 14, 2018
By Kathleen Welshman, RN-BC, BA, NBC-HWC, integrative nurse health coach
“It’s too cold.” “It’s too dark.” “I’m just going to hibernate.” “I don’t have energy.” “Give me more cookies and pie.” The days are shorter, the nights are longer, the sky is grey, the sun doesn’t shine. The season is changing in the Northeast and not everyone embraces this change. Some people experience a seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) beginning in the fall and extending through the winter months. Time change, colder weather, shorter days sometimes have a negative impact on mood. Some symptoms of SAD can include lack of motivation, lack of enjoyment in regular activities, changes in sleep or appetite, persistent sadness, feelings of isolation. With holidays upon us, this can become even more challenging for some.
While you cannot control the weather, there are many things within your control to help alleviate some of the seasonal symptoms you may experience.
- Exercise. Exercising can help the physical body and your health in general, but it can also have a tremendous impact on your mood and emotional health. When exercising, endorphins (those feel good hormones) are released into your body and can not only increase your energy, but also your mood.
- Get outside. While this may not sound very appealing to some, soak up whatever daylight you can, as well as breathe in the fresh air.
- Let the light in. While indoors, open up the blinds and curtains to let in the natural light. Sitting near a window could actually help to boost your mood.
- Make social plans. Connection with others is a powerful mood booster. Although it may be tempting to curl up and hibernate under the blankets, making plans can literally lift your spirits.
- Eat a balanced diet. Comfort foods are often plentiful this time of year and can be tempting, but will likely lead to that heavy, sluggish feeling. Make an extra effort to eat a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruit, protein and healthy fats.
- Plan alone time. While it is important to be social and connect with others, it is equally important to plan some special time for yourself, to do something you want to do.
- Plan a vacation. What better time to get away to a sunny destination than the middle of the winter. Certainly this is not always an option, but if it is, start looking at some travel sites, look at the sandy beaches, the beautiful aqua waters, the bright blue skies and sunshine.
- Meditate. If you can’t get away on vacation, try guided meditation and visualization. Listening to a guided meditation can literally take you (in your mind) to a warm place filled with sunshine. Try adding a daily dose of guided meditation, such as this one:
When struggling with a seasonal depression it is most important to know you don’t have to do this alone; check in with your doctor or mental health professional. Sometimes medication or counseling is best. Consider some of these lifestyle skills as an adjunct to your doctor recommended advice for optimum results. If you experience any thoughts of self-harm or suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.