With the changing of the leaves, autumn ushers in a beautiful and delicious time of year. What could be better than warm pumpkin pie, hot chocolate, and fall foliage? Well, for some, warmer days with more light would be. Seasonal depression (also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD) affects millions of people year round. If you’re feeling down in the holiday dumps, here are eight ways you can combat your SADness.
1. Treat Your Anxiety
Seasonal depression may only be a passing case of the blues for some people. But for others, the darker months of the year can create similarly dark feelings within. What may begin as a simple case of the blues can develop into full-blown symptomatic anxiety or depression.
This can make the end of the year and the start of the new year difficult times to endure. The difficulty of this can be compounded by seeing others around you in good spirits. If you find that you just can’t shake the funk you’re in, consider treating anxiety or depression professionally.
2. Keep Moving
People have a habit of slowing down their physical activity in winter — the days are colder, shorter, and sometimes downright uninviting. But a lack of activity can lead to feelings of stagnation, demotivation, and other depressive symptoms. So it’s important to make sure you put in the effort to exercise even when you don’t feel like it.
Keep moving by going to the gym, attending yoga classes, taking walks, or doing anything else that gets your blood pumping. You could still stay home, but get moving by participating in an at-home workout. Schedule these activities if you have a hard time staying on track when your motivation is low. Your body and mind will thank you for tending to them.
3. Prioritize Socializing
Just as people tend to slow down physical activity in winter, people also tend to get more reclusive. As a naturally gregarious species, even the most introverted need company every now and again to stay sane. (You don’t want to find yourself crying over the loss of a painted volleyball anytime soon.)
Prioritize social activities when you get invited to them, especially after the New Year. There are lots of holidays stretching from late October through the end of December, but few afterward. You could even start a new social tradition in late January to help coax everyone out of their caves for some fun.
4. Get Plenty of Vitamin D
Getting enough vitamin D is a surefire way to help you fight off negative feelings during dark times. Your heart, brain, and immune system all have receptors for vitamin D and need it to function properly. Make sure you’re getting enough of it, even when one of your main sources — the sun — isn’t around as often.
Besides bathing in sunlight when it is present, you can take supplements or spend some time with a SAD lamp. Whatever method works for you, use it regularly to ensure you get enough of this essential vitamin throughout winter.
5. Add Aromatherapy To Your Room
During the colder months, a major element missing from the world is the lovely smells. In the spring, flowers are blooming, and summer is full of delicious backyard bbq and nostalgic chlorine from the pool. From spring through fall, most people encounter various scents that all but disappear entirely come winter.
An essential oil diffuser, scented body lotion, or just keeping herbs on hand are great ways to add happy scents to your life. Some studies have shown that lavender, chamomile, and cedarwood in particular can have positive effects on your mental health. Do some research to find authentic, natural products, and you’ll have an easy mood boost on hand at any time.
6. Stick To Your Routine
It’s really easy to sleep in too late when it’s cold and dark outside. The bed sheets are so nice and warm after a night of sleep, after all. You’re especially susceptible to sleeping in on your days off, as you usually don’t have any responsibilities to drag you out of bed.
While, of course, it’s okay to sleep in sometimes, do your best not to make a habit out of it. Stay disciplined and keep a healthy routine. It will give you feelings of accomplishment throughout the year.
7. Take A Vacation
Even in the greatest of wars, a victory doesn’t always mean fighting the enemy head-on. In the case of seasonal depression, that can mean taking a vacation and heading to another season entirely. If your home is chronically cold and dark, schedule a trip to a warmer, sunnier, more relaxed place, maybe near the ocean.
Admittedly, this is something many people do in January or February, so tickets and hotels can be more expensive than usual. Book months in advance to save yourself the cash. That way you can spend your money saved on margaritas by the beach instead.
8. Keep a Journal
One of the tricky things about depression and anxiety is that they can really sneak up on you. You might not be totally aware of the little ways they invade your mind and warp your thinking. That’s why it can be a smart idea to write down your thoughts and feelings.
Keeping a journal is a great way to help you keep track of your mental status as it progresses over the months. You’ll have relatively objective evidence of your past self to compare against the patterns of your current self. You’ll also have a record of little things you may forget over time — a trove of little treasures to reflect on.
Whittle Away the Hours
When it comes down to it, one of the best things you can do for yourself to combat SADness is to keep yourself busy. Start a new hobby, keep in touch with friends and family, and get sunlight when you can. Do whatever it takes to keep your mind and body active and healthy throughout the darker, colder months. Talk to someone professionally and consider medication if you need to. And remember, the sun will rise again, and this season will pass.
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