Winter depresses me.
I don’t say that in a ‘the cold makes me feel down’ kind of way, I say that in a clinical sense. Yes, winter causes depression. Not in everyone, but in quite a few of us. In the U.S., approximately 5% of people experience SAD in a given year. SAD stands for, fittingly, seasonally affective disorder. It happens in the winter, when our days are short, our weather is nasty, and our vitamin D is at its lowest. SAD has many of the same symptoms of general depression, but a few stick out in SAD. Increased cravings for carbohydrates, excessive sleepiness, and weight gain headline this annual menace. I myself have struggled with seasonal affective disorder for several years, without knowing it even existed. Looking back now, I don’t know how I missed it.
Though reasonably new in its studies, seasonal affective disorder is very hard to deal with. See me, early 2018. I pored over garden catalogs, bought new yarn, tried lots and lots of art and hobbies, and still felt like a hopeless case. I literally found myself pacing the house, looking out all the windows, wondering if spring had abandoned us for good. Of course, it didn’t, and soon I was back in my garden, digging gleefully through compost. Er, that’s a story for another time.
This story is about how to prevent the craziness from taking over.
Number one, I suggest getting ahold of a morning routine. Mornings are hard, at least they are for me, and crawling into another icy day out of my warm blanket cocoon? Pass. If you design a reason to like getting up, you’ll do it. Sometimes, it’s breakfast. Sometimes, it’s the excitement of doing something fun that day. Regardless, give yourself a reason to get up. Something you like, that you WILL get up for. Starting out right is the first step to a less panicked day. My favorite
Next up, I’d encourage you to incorporate lots and lots of light. Especially in the morning. Turn on all the lights in your house, buy brighter bulbs, I don’t care. Light triggers our brains to start waking up, which counteracts that nasty exhaustion following us around like a lost puppy. There are special therapy lights, super bright panels or lamps that are designed to drastically improve mood and health. I plan to add one of these to my routine, but don’t have the money just yet. Similarly, you can find alarm clocks with built-in light features that help to more gently ease you into the world of consciousness. I myself am shopping around for one of these, but have not purchased one yet.
Third, vitamin D. We lose a lot of it during the winter, so supplementing can really, really help. Be sure to check with a professional on dosage. Sometimes, Vitamin D can really help, and in some cases, such as mine, it doesn’t seem to do anything. But, it is worth trying for no more than a few dollars a bottle for the potential of feeling better. Click here to see what I recommend. NOTE: The dose of this product is quite high, you may need to start with a lower dosage and work your way up as needed. CHECK WITH YOUR MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE STARTING ANY SUPPLEMENTS, IN THE EVENT THAT MEDICATION REACTIONS MAY OCCUR.
Go. Outside. I know, the one thing we’re trying to avoid. Hang on, guys, let me explain. Nature helps depression. I don’t know why, or if there’s some greater power at work here, but being outside is magic for the body inside and out. Even if you stand on your porch for thirty seconds, mentally berating me for suggesting this hogwash, try it. Fresh air does us all good, even if it’s cold.
Have a hobby. Or three. I collect hobbies like kids collect rocks (seriously, where do they get all of those?), and in the wintertime, it’s helped me stay busy. I’m not outdoors, but it gives my hands something to do and keeps my mind off of things like the snow that just keeps falling, or the cold that won’t go away. Personally, I draw, paint, knit, bake, cook, garden- you got it. Try to see if you can find something fun to do on those indoor days. Make a list, and work through them. Some may stick with you, others may not. Regardless, you’ll be doing something interesting.
Limit screentime. I know, out come the claws, but it’s for your own good. And hey, this is my worst fault. I curl up with Netflix or Hulu and some knitting and BAM there goes my afternoon. Some lounging is definitely okay, but don’t linger on it. Easy to say, hard to practice. I’m with you there. Maybe this provides some accountability
Read. Read a lot. Yes, very typical of me to say, but there’s something magic about winter and a pile of books. I’m constantly writing down names of books and authors I want to check out, so if you have something like that, winter is a perfect time to actually read those books! Hot beverage of choice + new book = pure bliss.
And finally, I leave you with this. Plan your spring and summer projects. It will help you feel closer to that end goal where the sun shines, we’re all happy, and eating ice cream for dinner is once again acceptable. Vacations, life changes, events, whatever you’re looking forward to, pen it out or brainstorm for a bit. I think you’ll be surprised at how energetic you’ll feel afterwards.
In conclusion, SAD is a monster that rears its ugly head when the going gets cold, but it can be stamped back into hiding. By using some of these tips, I hope you will find more joy in the winter months. I know I have!
Until next time, y’all.
– Allison: mastermind, yarn addict, and Netflix guru (for now)