10 Ways to Survive Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
The holidays and wintertime can be tough, especially if you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or are going through other issues such as trauma, loss or grief, family conflict, relationship loss, or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). I personally really struggle with SAD, and have for many many years. Which is why I recently poured my heart and soul into the ultimate Winter Survival Guide (you can download that here for FREE).
Nearly 20 percent of people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and is thought to be caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to lack of stimulation from sunlight. Symptoms include:
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Loss of libido
- Weakened immune system
Regardless of what you are going through, the holidays and cold winter months can take its toll on us emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. The pressure to purchase gifts and spend money, triggers of family struggles or rifts, lack of sunshine and vitamin D, holiday eating, and not being as active can all impact how we feel during these months. This is especially true if we are going through loss or grief of any kind; the holidays are a big time to trigger up and heighten already painful feelings and reminders of those special people we love who may no longer be with us. This is why self-care is even more crucial for those who struggle with mental health issues and other big stressors.
1.Keep your routine as much as possible
As difficult as this might be, stick with your morning, work/school, exercise, bedtime and sleep routines as best as you can. It is usually during times where we don’t have our normal routine in place (such as when schools are on winter break) that our depression and isolation can increase. You may notice you want to sleep longer in the Winter months; try not to let it get out of hand.
2. Stay active and get outside during the day
Get up and moving through exercise, seeing family and friends or simply getting out of the house on a regular basis – even if you don’t feel like it – will help improve your mood.
Take advantage of what little sunlight there is during these cloudy, dark months. Lack of fresh air and being inside so much can impact us, and have us feel isolated and “trapped” to the indoors. So even though it’s cold, bundle up and get out before it’s dark outside (which often happens before we get home for the day). Take a walk at lunch, or step out off the office for a few minutes to breathe in the fresh cold air. Your lungs and brain will thank you.
3. Take vitamin D and/or get a light box
Lack of sunshine and vitamin D can largely impact our depression during winter, as well as our energy levels and mood. Try investing in some good quality Vitamin D supplements, as well as a light box. Use the light box 15 minutes a day; it mimics real sunlight, which tricks our minds and body into thinking that it’s the real deal.
4. Eat nutritiously
As easy as it is to indulge in our favorite holiday treats or go into hibernation mode and enjoy delicious winter comfort foods, try to moderate these starchy carbs and sugary treats. Instead, focus on eating your leafy green veggies, fruits, protein, fish, and healthy fats that are shown to keep hormones in check and boost serotonin levels. What we put into our body, including drinking enough water, impacts us mind, body, and spirit.
5. Be kind to yourself
How we speak to ourselves, and what we think about others is just as powerful as what we eat and put into our bodies. Sometimes even more powerful. Most issues start out as emotional issues that manifest physically if we don’t deal with them. Try to treat yourself and others with less judgement and criticism, and more compassion and love. According to spiritual guru Gabby Bernstein, we are addicted to judgement. Read more about how to stop this addiction that poisons our mind and spirit in Gabby’s book Judgement Detox.
6. Try Aromatherapy
Certain essential oils can be helpful during the cold winter months and can help treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Try these essential oils and see what works best for you.
- Lack of energy: Peppermint
- Anxiety and Sleep: Lavender or Sandalwood
- Depression: Citrus oils such as Orange, Lemon, Bergamot, or Grapefruit. Try them alone or blend them all together for a mood boosting blend!
- Concentration: Rosemary or Peppermint
- Eating problems: Juniper Berry, Grapefruit, Cinnamon, Ginger, Lemon, Peppermint, Bergamot
- Joyful Blend: Lavender, Tangerine, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, and Lemon
Doterra has Elevation and Young Living has Joy.
**If you’re in the KC area, stop by our Centered Self-Care shop in Lenexa, Kansas for some aromatherapy jewelry and Young Living essential oils!
7. Make plans that you look forward to
Whether it’s going to the movies, cooking with a spouse, baking with a friend, seeing a new play or musical, a cozy night in, or going on a vacation. Having something you are looking forward to can always brighten our moods and see a light at the end of the snowy tunnel.
8. Try reframing these month’s goals and activities
Instead of looking at December through March as a cold, dark, lonely time of the year where you can’t get outside as much, reframe the concept you have of Winter into a time to focus more of your other passions and hobbies. Look at it as a time where you get ample opportunity to focus your energy on indoor activities such as cooking, reading, writing, board games, arts and crafts, movies, working out, yoga, quality time with friends and family, organizing, purging your home, or working on that project you’ve been putting off. It’s seasonally more of a time to slow down and hibernate, so embrace it instead of resisting it!
9. Reach out for Help
Depression, grief, trauma, holidays, and winter in general can feel extremely isolating and lonely. Especially if we are stressed out on top of it, all of it may bubble up inside of you before you realize how bad it is. Reach out to friends and family, or other support can help you not feel so alone– and like one of my favorite role models Marie Forleo says–that “everything is Figure-out-able”. Talk it out with someone who doesn’t judge, criticize, or minimize. If you don’t have a supportive person in your life, consider scheduling an appointment with a therapist or life coach.
10. Work with a therapist, coach or shaman
If your depression gets too difficult to bare, try reaching out to a mental health professional this year. Dealing with mental and emotional health issues doesn’t have to be so unbearable – and a therapist can help. Finding the right fit for you is as important as finding the right spouse, so do some shopping and try several before you start treatment. Don’t forget that Self Care is NOT selfish – it’s necessary. Find a therapist near you at www.psychologytoday.com.
Or if you’d prefer to work with a life coach or shaman, that’s perfectly fine too! Whatever works best for you and gets you the connection and support that you need and deserve. I work with a local Shaman doing shamanic breathwork to get all my trauma out of my body, and it’s absolutely amazing and refreshingly different from traditional psychotherapy! I highly recommend it. If you’re local to KC, reach out to me and I can get you more info.
If you or someone you know ever feels like harming themselves, please help yoursel for them and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
Now I would love to hear from you.
Do you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)? What helps you cope and survive the winter and holiday season? Let me know in the comments below and I look forward to connecting and going deeper with you. Sending much love, self-care, and centering.