Lately, I've felt sluggish. With evening darkness washing over the skies before dinnertime, and frosty temperatures becoming the norm, I've been a little down. And, I'm not alone. Several of my friends have mentioned they too battle the winter blues. Officially, this condition is known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it is common among those living in areas with seasonal weather changes.
This year, I decided to learn how to treat SAD naturally by becoming more aware of mental and physical health shifts. I'm making a few minor changes to my days to embrace and—dare I say—enjoy the chilly, gray winter months.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
If you notice "significant changes in your mood and behavior whenever the seasons change," you may have winter-pattern SAD, a type of depression starting in late fall that remedies in springtime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Some people also encounter summer-pattern SAD during spring and summer months.
SAD can last for four to five months and may cause the following symptoms per the NIMH and the Cleveland Clinic:
- Difficulties concentrating or sleeping (oversleeping or insomnia)
- Change in appetite (over or under eating)
- Less interest or withdrawal from enjoyable activities
- Feeling sluggish, hopeless or worthless
- Low energy and extreme fatigue
- Heaviness feeling in the limbs
- Social withdrawal and anxiety
- Craving carbohydrate-heavy foods
SAD is temporary and manageable. Talk with your trusted physician or mental health professional about your symptoms to get a proper diagnosis of what's affecting you.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Self-Care Tips
After daylight-savings time pushed our clocks back an hour, I could feel the symptoms of SAD creeping up, so I updated my routine. Knowing how to treat SAD naturally has helped me, and maybe these tips will help you, too.
1. Get Outside
I plan early morning and pre-sunset walks with my dog to ensure we enjoy some daylight. When sunlight hits the skin, it helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which can boost serotonin, a hormone that aids in regulating our day-night cycle, according to the NIMH.
2. Try Indoor Light Therapy
If you can't get outside during daylight hours, consider light therapy. The NIMH explains that, if you spend 30 to 45 minutes in the morning absorbing a specific type of lamplight, you can get a similar health boost as soaking in sunshine. Ask a healthcare professional for guidance.
3. Stay Connected
When it's cold outside, it's tempting to cancel plans. Instead, update them. For example, move girl's night out to an online video chat. The Cleveland Clinic says socializing is a "tremendous means of support during winter months".
4. Eat a Variety of Fresh Produce
The Cleveland Clinic explains that getting sufficient vitamins and minerals from a well-balanced diet gives you more energy. For example, on the weekends, I often create a one-pot dish filled with vegetables that I can easily reheat during the week.
5. Plan a Bright Outfit
Last week I picked cheerful sweaters in robin-egg blue, pumpkin orange, and rich fuchsia colors to brighten my days. Sometimes, I also layer on a sparkly necklace or bold lipstick to boost my mood. When I look put together, I feel good.
Additional ways to manage SAD include diffusing invigorating essential oils (I like citrus), exercising, or setting up a simple outside walking routine. When it comes to seasonal affective disorder self-care, I personally enjoy journaling about gratitude and dreaming about the future via a vision board. Whatever you enjoy, bundle up and go!
You should also consult your healthcare professional about potential medications, how to set realistic goals, and ways to be positive.
To learn more ways to take care of yourself, visit the Naturally Good Fitness board from @tomsofmaine on Pinterest.
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It's Good
Whether you're facing a dreary winter day or a tough situation in the summer, SAD is manageable. By making self-care a priority, even for small moments during the day, you can lift your spirits and boost your whole-body wellness.