By Andrea Scharlatt
Many people are familiar with the term Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD, as it is aptly referred to). SAD is the clinical term for a seasonal condition that often commences in the fall and winter months and includes symptoms such as low energy, lack of interest in things you typically enjoy, problems sleeping, changes in appetite or weight gain, difficulty concentrating, and even suicidal ideations. But even people without full-blown SAD can feel some of these symptoms during the cold winter months. I think most of us have woken up on more than one dark Minnesota winter morning and felt the impossibility of getting out of bed with a smile on your face! It can be especially bad for people who don’t love living in Minnesota but are here because of family, work or other obligations.
If you feel you suffer from SAD, you should definitely be talking with your therapist and/or doctor about options for treating your symptoms. Anti-depressants and light therapy can be very effective for SAD. If you don’t feel you have SAD, but know that the winter months can tend to bring you down, there are many things you can do on a day to day basis to help survive the cold winter months with more energy and zeal. Here are some of my favorite winter blues busters:
- Take plenty of vitamin D every day. Most doctors recommend between 3,000 and 5,000 IUs daily. You can also eat vitamin D rich foods like salmon, tuna, yogurt, eggs, and cereals or juice fortified with vitamin D.
- Eat with the season and enjoy the foods that we are meant to eat at this time of year. That includes squash, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and turmeric. These foods contain many of the nutrients that our bodies need to make it through the long winter months.
- Stay away from sugar. This can be hard with all the temptation foods of the holidays, but limit your intake of cookies, cakes, and sweets as they mess with your blood sugar and will exacerbate feelings of sluggishness.
- Cozy up by the fire. If you have a fire place at home, use it! If not, find a coffee shop that does. Take advantage of the season to curl up with a book and a cup of hot tea by a fire. It will make you feel grateful and cozy when it is snowing hard outside.
- Wear clothes that keep you warm and that feel good on your skin. Scarves are a great way to keep your neck warm, which helps keep your whole body warm.
- Get outside during the day. Take a walk during the sunniest part of the day–even if it is cold! Bundle up and get out there! It will invigorate your body and will help your sleep to get a dose of sunshine or natural light each day
- Get plenty fo sleep, but not TOO much sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
- Exercise or workout several times a week to boost endorphins and serotonin.
Keep in mind that we are all in this Minnesota thing together! Reach out to your friends, therapist, doctors, or family members if winter is getting you down. There is a lot of help out there if you need it.