It’s that time of year again in Chicago when the days are shorter, the sky is grayer, and it feels a lot harder to get out of bed and face the piercing wind. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a mood disorder that typically begins and ends around the same time each year, and often takes place in the winter months. For most people the symptoms begin in the Fall as the colder weather sets in, and then begin to dissipate when Spring rolls around. And while many of us feel a little less energy in the winter months, there are other specific symptoms of SAD. Signs that you may have SAD include having less energy than you do in the warmer months, feeling moodier, and noticing that you start isolating yourself more as the seasons change. And while SAD affects over 3 million Americans a year, there are ways to combat some of the symptoms.
Make time to take care of yourself in the winter months, especially when it comes to working out and being conscious of the foods you’re eating. Having a regular workout routine can boost your energy and give you some extra endorphins that are harder to come by when there’s less sunshine. Even going to a conservatory for a few hours and being in a warm and sunny room can help to lift your mood.
Use a Happy Light
Happy lights help to stimulate your body to produce the chemicals that make us feel happy. The extra full spectrum light mimics the kind of light you would naturally be around in the summertime (just without the UV rays from the sun), and this light helps your body to feel more energetic. Place the light on a desk or table and sit several feet away, and within a few weeks you can start to feel improvements from the light.
Talk With a Therapist
If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling, consider talking to a therapist for some extra support. Even if you do have friends who can support you during this time, meeting with a therapist can help you to have a professional who is more informed about depression and can provide you with some advice for how best to cope with your feelings. Having a scheduled time each week with a listening ear can also alleviate the sense that you’re in this alone.
Connect With Others (Even When You Don’t Want To)
When you’re already feeling depressed and sluggish, reaching out to other people can feel like a really big chore. But one of the antidotes to loneliness and feelings of depression is connecting with others and letting yourself share with someone else about what you’re going through. Whether it’s through a phone call or meeting up with a friend, try to find a safe person that you can share your feelings with. Even letting a friend know that you struggle with SAD could help them to remember to reach out to you in the winter months.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist to give you extra support as you fight against winter depression. Some people prefer to start medication right when the winter months hit, while others like to use more natural coping techniques. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with.
If you find yourself struggling to cope with the winter blues, you may find it helpful to meet with one of our therapists as Symmetry Counseling for more support in the winter months. You can contact Symmetry Counseling today to get matched with one of our skilled clinicians.