Winter means low temperatures, less daylight, and less sun overall. In addition to feeling like it’s night all the time, the stress of winter can be challenging to manage. Whether you have harsh winters that require you to wake up early every day to scrape the ice off your car before work or find it hard to get out of bed because you’re so cold, winter can negatively impact your emotional well-being. Many people suffer from seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is a disorder that results in fatigue and moodiness. It typically occurs at the same time every year, usually during the winter or fall. However, there is something called “reverse SAD,” in which someone experiences these symptoms in the warmer months instead of the cold months. Most cases of SAD occur in the winter due to the lack of sunlight or decreased daylight, which can throw off your internal rhythm. It’s normal for the changing season to affect your emotional health, but you don’t have to suffer all season long. Let’s discuss a few ways to handle seasonal depression.
One – Natural Light
Many people experience reduced SAD symptoms when they get more natural sunlight throughout the day. However, depending on where you live, winter might not come with tons of sunlight; even if it does, it may be too cold to spend any time outside. Still, on sunny winter days, you should bundle up and spend more time outdoors to help reset your body’s internal clock. Sunlight can also give you a boost of vitamin D, which you’ll need to improve your mood and fight off viruses during the winter season.
If it’s just too cold to spend time outdoors, keep your blinds or curtains open during the day to let natural light shine through. While it might be tempting to keep your home dark with heavy curtains to prevent the cold air from getting in, sunlight is essential for your mood, so you should try to use natural light in your home whenever possible.
Two – Exercise
Another way to reset your internal clock during a long, dark, and cold winter is to exercise. Of course, if you enjoy going on outdoor runs, you may not be able to during the cold season, but there are other ways to increase your heart rate and give yourself a boost of energy during the day. Exercise has been proven effective in helping treat a variety of mental health-related challenges, including anxiety and depression. While exercise isn’t a cure for emotional health problems, it can help individuals manage their symptoms and feel more energetic and happy by boosting feel-good hormones.
Luckily, you don’t need a gym membership to take advantage of the benefits of exercise during the winter. If you don’t want to spend money on a membership, you can work out at home by doing pilates or yoga. However, if you want daily physical exercise, you can invest in gym equipment, including weights and cardio machines like treadmills and ellipticals.
Three – Improve Sleep
One issue many people with seasonal depression deal with is constant fatigue. The lack of sunlight and cold weather may make you want to curl up with your favorite blanket and sleep more. However, sleeping more doesn’t mean you’re giving yourself more energy; it could mean the opposite. Sleeping too many hours disrupts your natural sleep cycle, leaving you feeling more fatigued the next day. In addition, sleeping too much has been linked to depression, so it could be exacerbating your SAD symptoms.
Instead of aiming to get more sleep, aim to improve the sleep you do get. There are several ways to do this, including investing in a premium mattress and managing stress. One thing that may have a significant impact on your sleep quality is finding your ideal sleep temperature. Since winter can be freezing cold even with the heat on, you may have to invest in heavier blankets made from flannel or experiment with different temperatures in your home to prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night because you’re too cold.
Four – Enjoy Winter
Believe it or not, what makes winter less enjoyable may be the fact that you believe it’s horrible. However, if you try to change your mindset about winter, you may drastically improve your mood. Going into winter with a better mindset by considering all the winter activities you can do can help you get and stay excited about winter. Yes, there are downsides, like driving on icy roads or taking time to bundle up in the morning before you can leave the house, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the season.
Even if you can’t handle the cold weather and don’t enjoy winter sports, you can still enjoy the season. During winter, fewer people go outdoors, so your life will have fewer commitments. With fewer responsibilities, you can spend quality time with yourself indoors by snuggling up with your pet on the couch and enjoying your free time.
Five – Be Social
Of course, curling up with a good book while the snow falls is one of the best parts about winter. However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid social activities because of the cold. While you can’t go to outdoor concerts or on hikes with your friends, you can still spend time together by going to your favorite restaurants or ordering a meal kit and work on making a meal together at home. If it is hard to travel due to weather, consider scheduling regular video calls with loved ones or gaming sessions on your favorite console or flight simulator with your buddies. It’s important to remain social during the winter even though the weather may be frightful because it can help distract you from anything that might be causing you stress and give you time to do something you enjoy.
Living with Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression can take a toll on your life. If you’re someone who experiences a drastic energy and mood shift during certain seasons, it’s time to take action. Consider keeping a sleep and exercise schedule year-round to prevent seasonal depression symptoms from affecting your everyday life. In addition, if you find your SAD is negatively impacting your relationships, work, or happiness, consider talking to a professional who can help.