We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can struggle with depression when the temperature and light drops, and this can be a serious problem. This form of depression is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can interfere with your everyday life, but there are ways for you to help ease symptoms for a happier life. We’ve gathered some self-care tips to help yourself feel better.
You can read more about Seasonal Affective Disorder, symptoms, and causes in our article, ‘What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?’
1) Let the Light Shine
As SAD is triggered by a lack of sunlight during winter months, exposing yourself to light is a great way to help ease the symptoms. Sometimes, people with depression can struggle to motivate themselves to go outside. However, trying to get direct sunlight will help boost your mood. If you can’t go outdoors, you can also try sitting by a window during the day. Open the curtains as soon as you get up in the morning – the earlier you expose yourself to light, the more beneficial it’ll be.
If you don’t notice much change in how you feel, you could consider light therapy. Certain lights have been designed to mimic daylight, which suppresses the release of melatonin. You won’t feel as sleepy during the day, and these lights trigger the release of brain chemicals that are linked to a more upbeat mood. Our SAD Therapy Light from Lifemax combats the effects of SAD and helps to improve your mental wellbeing during the darker months. You can also check out our Wake Up to Daylight light from Lumie, an alarm clock that recreates a gradual sunrise in the morning, so you wake up with light.
2) Have A Healthy Diet
Comfort eating, or over-eating, can be tempting when we feel down. However, simply including fruit and vegetables in your comfort meals can give you more energy and will boost your mood. Winter vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, and turnip, can be roasted, mashed, or made into soup for a comforting, warming winter meal. Plus, classic stews and casseroles are great options if they’re made with lean meat and plenty of vegetables. With these choices, you can still enjoy the hearty and fulfilling sensations that you want – without eating excessive calories. Just make sure to avoid eating heavy meals a couple of hours before you go to bed.
3) Stay Active
Don’t hibernate or stay cooped up inside. Spending time outdoors is good for your mental health, will improve your self-esteem, and will reduce stress and anxiety. Throw on your scarf, woolly hat, and gloves, and enjoy winter activities, like ice-skating, building a snowman, or going for a walk in the snow. Snowball fights are also great ways to boost your mood, and they’re a fun way to socialise with family and friends. Meet up with your friends for a trip to the cinema or a museum if you don’t want to spend too long in the cold. Exercising is also good for both your physical and mental health – even gentle exercise, like yoga, swimming, or walking. However, avoid exercising in the evening as this will make it harder for you to sleep at night. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.
4) Keep A Diary
You could find it helpful to keep a note of your symptoms and when they start – this is a good way to find out what triggers your low mood. If you keep track of your symptoms, you’ll be able to notice patterns. You could also keep track of your sleep patterns, as poor sleep could be contributing to low moods, too. You can do this by keeping a sleep diary or consider investing in our SleepExpert Sleep Sensor from Beurer, which monitors your sleeping habits. You’ll be able to identify sleep patterns and take informed measures to improve any bad habits. Read more about its benefits here. You should also make a note of things that feel helpful for you, or anything that makes you feel worse. This’ll be a great help, as SAD affects you at some times in the year and not others, so you might forget the details the next time you’re feeling your mood shift.
5) Find Ways to Relax
Managing your stress levels will help to alleviate symptoms of SAD and depression. This’ll make it easier for you to fall asleep, too. You could try some relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises and meditation. These will make you focus on your breathing, which is a useful technique when you want to slow down your thoughts and relax. Read more about meditation here. You could also try practising mindfulness, which makes you focus on the moment. This is a great advantage for when you need to quiet any anxious thoughts. Read more about its benefits, and how to practice it, here.
6) Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
While you may want to drink alcohol to drown out any troubling thoughts, it can actually make you feel worse. Alcohol will make you feel sleepy, but it’ll keep you from getting the deep sleep that you need. It’ll also wake you up in the middle of the night, and you could struggle to get back to sleep. This’ll disrupt your sleep, so you’re more tired and irritable during the day. This won’t help your mood. Caffeine should also be avoided during the afternoon and evening. While the first cup of coffee can increase your alertness in the morning, drinking coffee during the day will make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. This leads to poor sleep, which leads to a low mood during the day.
7) Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re struggling with SAD and depression, consult your doctor. Your doctor will be able to determine the best care for you, as everyone experiences SAD differently. They’ll also find out if there’s an underlying cause, like a pre-existing mental health problem. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, they may refer you to a psychologist or prescribe antidepressants. Going to a doctor will help to ease the symptoms of SAD, which will also help you sleep better at night. You can read more about treatments for SAD here.