Do You Have S.A.D? How to Survive the Winter Blues
It never fails that the mere hint of winter gives me a tiny bit of panic.
Now, I love Fall. Like, loooove it. It’s my absolute favorite season. Pumpkin spice lattes, warm boots, soft sweaters, bonfires, gorgeous changing leaves . . . aaaaah, yes, please.
Unfortunately, it only lasts for all of 2.5 seconds.
Get that cold, dark, ridiculously long season away from me! (Side note: I live near the Rocky Mountains – and, yes, I see the irony in that.)
It starts out as a mere irritation that I’m cold, and it’s dark by 4 pm, and I look like a marshmallow everywhere I go . . .
But eventually, it turns into full-blown lethargy, carb cravings, and irritability. Not a great state to be in when you’re trying to stay healthy.
This is my experience, yours could vary from minor irritation, all the way up to severe depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This means that the winter blues is something to be taken seriously.
If you’re concerned about feeling down this winter, use this blog post to help you develop a game plan so you can get through this season without worry you’ll turn into a sad, sedentary, hermit like me. (Just kidding . . . I’m not sedentary.)
First, we’ll talk about handling the everyday winter blues with simple healthy habits. Next, I’ll share what to do when your symptoms are more serious and you may be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
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Why Does the Winter Make Us Want to Cry?
The winter blues might affect you simply because it’s a cold season that can get seriously tiresome after awhile. As in, oh look it’s cloudy for the umpteenth day in a row. (As I write this, it’s snowing out, so forgive me for my very real angry feelings toward winter, lol – Do you think maybe I should move?)
You may have to do some serious preparing just to travel outside and the lack of fresh air and confinement to the indoors might make you want to scowl at everyone who crosses your path.
Plenty of people experience a hint of the winter blues as harsh weather keeps us shut up indoors, but seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a more serious form of depression.
Fortunately, there are effective forms of treatment. These are the basic facts about SAD and how to feel better year round so you can keep up with feeling like the fabulous rockstar you are 😉
How to Survive the Winter Blues
With a proper positive attitude, you can sail through any situation. Even if the going gets rough, you know that better times are just ahead. The winter blues are certainly no exception!
Pick 2-3 tips from the list below to create your own winter self-care plan.
Plan indoor activities
If you’re the type to go a little stir crazy after a while, brainstorm some new and exciting ways to have a good time indoors. You can invite your friends over to play board games, watch movies, or just chat.
Make New Year’s resolutions
Some people shrug off New Year’s resolutions as “not worth it” because the majority of people forget about them after January.
However, you can be the exception to this rule with enough enthusiasm. Set some realistic goals for yourself, and as you achieve them, you’ll likely beat the blues in the process.
The point here is to give you something to be working towards so don’t feel aimless or stuck. When you have a goal to strive towards you’re more likely to be productive and feel fulfilled.
Maintain your health
It can be so easy to forego healthy habits during the craziness of the holiday season. Festive treats are thrown around and you may not have time to continue your exercise routines.
If you’ve neglected your health during this busy season, then it’s important to get yourself back into shape when the madness ends. When you’re not treating yourself right, it stands to reason you won’t feel right both physically and mentally. This may be one of the reasons why you’re struggling with the blues.
Think positive thoughts
Negative thinking clouds your brain and in turn, brings more negative things into your life, so it’s important to stop these thoughts in their tracks.
You have the power to turn it all around. If the blues have gotten you down, chances are that there’s a silver lining somewhere. You just have to do a little digging to find it.
For more positive mindset tips, read my post here or sign up for the 5-day Mindset Reset Challenge below to address negative thinking patterns using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.
When you wake up each morning (yes, even on the dark and gloomy ones), train yourself to think of 3 good things going on in your life. Winter may not be one of them, but there are no doubt many more 😉
Enjoy family time
After the holidays, it’s important to continue other traditions of family togetherness. While you might not always have the ability to eat meals together, it’s vital to schedule some special time for everyone to share together.
It helps me to venture outside with my family (yes, even when I look like a marshmallow) and actually enjoy the snow on those sunnier days. Sledding, snowboarding, and ice skating are all favorite winter activities in my house.
It may help to plan your next summer vacation. You might even find some excellent deals by booking your vacation early.
You can then escape the winter blues by visualizing yourself enjoying your summer vacay on the beach. An exciting activity to look forward to that also reduces those winter doldrums.
If the above suggestions don’t bring you relief from the winter blues, remember that you can always talk with a counselor or coach about your feelings.
The winter blues may affect you more severely than others, so, for your own sake, you don’t want to let it go untreated.
In most cases, if you follow the tips above and make a conscious effort to engage in exciting activities during the winter, you can survive the winter blues and finally enjoy winter!
When It’s More Than Just Winter Blues – How to Handle Seasonal Affective Disorder
Of course, there are cases where your experience of the “winter blues” may be more severe.
So what do we do when a case of the blues is something more? Here are several important facts and strategies regarding Seasonal Affective Disorder you should know.
Understanding the Facts About SAD
Distinguish between SAD and other forms of depression
SAD often resembles other types of depression. The key difference is that your symptoms are limited to the same season each year.
Recognize the symptoms
With SAD, you’re likely to feel sad and irritable. You may be hungry all the time with especially strong cravings for carbohydrates like bread and pasta. It’s also common to feel drowsy and sleep more.
Be aware of the different varieties of SAD
This condition usually strikes in the winter, but not always. For some people, the heat and humidity of summer serve as triggers.
Know your risk factors
The highest risk of SAD occurs between the ages of 15 and 55. As you age, you’re less likely to develop SAD. It’s more common in women and in areas where winter days are shorter and the amount of light changes dramatically according to the season. Family history also plays a role.
Strategies for Living With SAD
Increase your exposure to light
Home remedies are sometimes all you need. Try using brighter lights and spending more time outdoors in the sun. Morning light is especially important.
Try out light therapy
If your symptoms are more intense, your physician will probably prescribe light therapy. You spend just about a half hour a day exposed to a special box lamp.
There are few side effects and many people enjoy immediate relief. For others, simple complementary activities do the trick.
Get more exercise
I get it – on the particularly dark cold days of winter, exercise is probably the last thing you want to do.
But regular exercise is extremely beneficial for coping with most forms of depression, including SAD.
Schedule a workout first thing in the morning like a brisk walk around the neighborhood or Tai Chi in your backyard.
Be extra gentle with yourself while you’re recovering. Take time to relax through meditation or listening to instrumental music or sound therapy.
Set aside a few minutes each day to recenter yourself and focus on your mental and emotional needs.
Aim for good quality sleep
Your body will try to get extra sleep when you have SAD. Help make that slumber restorative by avoiding alcohol and caffeine and sticking to a regular early bedtime.
Learn how to take a holistic approach to improve your sleep in this blog post.
Find herbal and homeopathic remedies for sleep in this post.
Watch your weight
SAD can lead to weight gain. Protect your health by increasing your regular exercise routine to burn more calories.
The darker months may also trigger us to crave carbs and other comfort foods. When a craving strikes, fill up on warm, comforting and healthy foods such as vegetable soups and bone broths.
There may other factors besides diet and exercise habits that are causing your weight gain. Learn more in this post.
Do some traveling
If your budget and schedule permit, SAD is one of the few issues you can run away from. Go where the weather suits your needs better if your budget allows.
Take a vitamin D supplement
Even when we do make it a point to get outside regularly in during the winter months, it can still be a challenge to get enough vitamin D. Taking a vitamin D supplement may be your best bet to make sure your levels don’t fall too low.
Talk with your naturopath doctor or find a Nutrition Response Testing (NRT) practitioner to determine the right dosage for you.
Try EFT tapping
EFT is extremely effective for overcoming negative feelings and thinking patterns. You can learn more in this post.
While the long winter freeze can be daunting, the changing of seasons can also be an opportunity to appreciate nature and shake up your daily routines.
A little more exposure to morning light and attention to your personal emotional well being may be all you need to stay well.
However, if you think you could be experiencing symptoms of SAD, talk with your naturopathic doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you.
I’ve found that the most beneficial treatments for me are increased sunlight exposure, exercise, EFT and a nutritious diet.
Although it can be hard to venture out in such a cold, dreary season, and you may rather be curled up with a blanket, tea and another season of ‘This Is Us,’ force yourself to get up, move and go outside.
With a little forethought and a lot of extra self-love, you CAN get through the winter blues!
Does winter make you want to cry too? How to handle winter depression?
Hi! I’m Liane, mindset coach and holistic nutritionist in training. I have a passion for all things natural, healthy and holistic. My aim is to inspire you on your healthy living journey by sharing simple, everyday holistic habits that can transform your well-being and life.