It is that time of year again. The outdoor air is cooler, you move slower, and you have to wake up and come home in the dark. Not exactly the ideal situation. In fact, many people are seriously affected by the change in weather and exposure to light. The condition is called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a.k.a. the Winter Blues.
In the USA, more than 10 million people are affected by the winter blues. Besides feeling down, people with SAD experience depression, loss of energy, anxiety, withdrawal, over sleeping, over eating, and over spending. Yes over spending. It is quite common for those feeling depressed and withdrawn to go out and spend money in the hopes that it will make them feel better. Unfortunately, the happiness is short lived. In fact, as soon as the next day hits, the cycle starts all over again. Dr. Mark Leifeste, a physician out of Colorado, recommends the following four remedies to deal with SAD so you can avoid over eating, over sleeping, and over spending.
- See your physician. A health professional can be very helpful in assessing and treating SAD and nipping it in the bud early before become paralyzed by it.
- Enjoy the sunny days. Just because it is cold, don’t hide inside. Put on some warm clothes and get some fresh air. Even a short walk around the block could make all the difference. Not to mention, it’s bonus exercise. You can even take a book and read a chapter on a park bench. The exposure to the outdoor light is sure to help you feel better.
- Stay active. Winter is really bad for encouraging laziness. Many of us feel less motivated to be active and often put on a couple pounds during the season. Well, fight against this. Studies have shown that regular exercise helps minimize the winter blues. Aim for 30 minutes a day. Possible activities can be snowshoeing, cross country skiing (I love this), skating, or hiking.
- Use light therapy. Open all of the curtains and drapes in your house and let the sun shine in. If you are at work and have a window do the same. You can also install skylights or keep your trees pruned so more light can get into your house. You can also buy a light therapy device. My husband and I don’t have SAD per say but we are affected by the season change so we picked up a light therapy device a couple years ago. It was just over $100 at Costco and I must admit it has been a very good investment. We use it every morning before we head out for work. Not only do we have more energy but we also find our sleep cycle stays on track better.
- Use a combination. Dr. Leifeste says that a combination of the four therapies above is usually the most effective. Use trial and error to find out what combination works best for you.
You see, there is good news. You don’t have to feel down, anxious, and sad during the winter, and you don’t have to go to extremes to get to this point either. You don’t need to eat everything in your cupboards or buy everything in the store to get relief. Just a few simple adjustments to our daily routine is the key.
Above all, take comfort in these three things: you’re normal, you don’t have to turn into a hibernating mammal, and overcoming anything is possible if you put your mind to it.