SAD (or Seasonal Affective Disorder), is a specific type of depression that is connected to the changing seasons. SAD can affect anyone and can look very different both from person to person and even from year to year.
When winter rolls around, it disrupts our biological clocks. We set the clocks back an hour, and we lose a lot of daylight as the sun begins to set earlier and earlier in the evening. This disruption is not only upsetting to endure, but it can actually drop serotonin and melatonin levels in your body. These are the hormones that make you feel happy and help you to get a good night’s sleep so that you feel well-rested and ready to tackle each day.
This combination of lack of light and positive hormones in the winter can lead to a harder season for a lot of people. Symptoms of SAD can include the desire to oversleep, low energy, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation to socialize or exercise, craving higher-carb foods, weight gain and increased feelings of depression.
Have you seen these SAD symptoms in yourself or your youth this winter? Here are some tips to help decrease them and get through it with more energy and motivation!
1) Create a Regular Sleep Schedule - Check in on your sleep habits. Are you getting enough sleep? A rule of thumb is to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Schedules can be hectic, especially around the holidays, so try adjusting your bedtime and wake up times small increments at a time. Even adding an extra 30 minutes a night will start you off on the right track!
2) Create a Morning Routine - Journaling or morning meditation habits can increase focus, lead to better daily productivity and create an overall sense of calm. Check out our blogs on Anxiety Apps and Depression Apps if you’re new to meditation but want to give it a try.
3) Light Therapy – Since the decrease of sunlight in the winter is believed to contribute to SAD symptoms, exposing yourself to light should help those symptoms improve. Open your curtains, sit closer to windows or add lights to the rooms you spend a lot of time in. Finding outdoor activities like walking, tobogganing or skating to soak up as much of that rare winter sunlight as possible will help too!
4) Eat Mood-Boosting Foods – It may be surprising to hear, but gut health makes a huge impact on overall mental health. Upping foods high in Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and Vitamin B and D (like fish, meats, nuts and seeds) can help support brain function and balance hormones.
5) Get More Exercise – This one is always tough to do when you aren’t feeling up to it, but even a 30-minute walk per day can drastically improve your mood. Getting your body moving increases feel-good endorphins and serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain that help relieve symptoms of depression. Not into walking? Anything that gets your body moving can help. Try yoga, running, swimming, dancing or ice skating!