Wellness Strategies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
Updated: Jan 29
Image via Pexels, Gabriela Palai
Written by Contributing Guest Author: Kimberly Hayes
While it’s normal to occasionally feel down during the winter, if you’ve felt unwell for more than a few days or struggle to meet the demands of daily life, it could be a sign of something more. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that shows up during fall or winter. The increased isolation and time indoors resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic could make it especially challenging to cope with SAD symptoms. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until spring to start feeling better; the following wellness strategies can help right away.
It’s All About Light
The shorter days and lack of sunlight are thought to trigger SAD symptoms, but you don’t have to run away to a tropical paradise to start increasing your exposure to light. Start by getting outside as often as you can, even for just a short walk or a cup of coffee in a park. If conditions allow for it, consider trying an outdoorsy hobby or taking your workout outdoors.
Another treatment option is a light therapy lamp, which mimics the spectrum of sunlight (without the harmful UV rays). These can be helpful if you’re not able to get outdoors daily, or if your home or workplace doesn’t have many windows. Studies have shown that sitting in front of a light therapy lamp for as little as 30 minutes a day can improve the symptoms of SAD.
Self-care isn’t just about treating yourself to brunch or a spa day. It’s a powerful tool to improve your overall wellbeing. You can start by checking in with your physical health. Are you getting enough sleep and exercise? Are you eating nutritious foods? Nurturing yourself and meeting your physical needs can help improve your emotional well-being.
Caring for your living space can be another effective form of self-care. Think of organizing or cleaning your home as a way to pamper yourself, not just a chore. Consider freshening up your space and giving your home a winter makeover to make it feel more inviting and serene.
Talk to Someone
Coping with both the winter blues and the COVID-19 pandemic is tough. It’s more important than ever to socialize when you can and stay connected with your community. If you’re unable to meet up in person, reach out to friends and family via phone, text, or video chat. Social support is key in protecting against depression and has been shown to ease symptoms.
There’s no reason to ignore the symptoms of SAD if you have them. By incorporating more light exposure into your routine, practicing good self-care, and reaching out to your community, you have it in your power to improve your winter wellness. If you find that these changes are not making a difference, consider getting in touch with your doctor or mental healthcare provider to learn more about SAD treatment options.
Kimberly Hayes knows firsthand the loneliness and unknowns that addiction brings. After overcoming an eating disorder, she is ready to squash the stigma and help raise awareness about the importance of health, wellness, and self-care as it pertains to addiction, mental health, and so much more.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)