With winter's arrival comes darkness, dry skin and chillier temps, all easily summed up in one word: ugh.
Though it might bum you out when night falls at 4:30pm, that sinking feeling isn't necessarily seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (otherwise aptly known as SAD). Those conditions impede daily function, making it impossible to go about your life. Symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression, including feelings of hopelessness, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating and increased fatigue. It's estimated that millions of Americans experience SAD.
"SAD goes beyond the 'winter blues," says Lia Avellino, LCSW and THE WELL Director of Head & Heart.
There is, however, a connection to the glumness of an early sunset. "Seasonal depression is also thought to be biochemical, but triggered by the shortage in light hours," says Avellino.
Check out this list of expert-approved coping mechanisms that can be used in conjunction with a medical professional's help.
Activities to Cope with SAD
Avellino has an important reminder for those frustrated by a lack of motivation to do even the simplest of tasks — let alone this sort of tough self-work — over the winter months.
"Know that you likely won’t be 'in the mood' for many of these activities, but in this case, desire can follow will," says Avellino. "Sometimes getting what we need doesn’t feel good. It's like taking medicine. It might not taste good but it can help us heal."
- Avellino recommends light therapy, a long-practiced solution of using bright light to combat this seasonal mood disorder.
- Get moving. Try ramping up your nervous system with movement and exercise.
- Partake in self-expression. "When we are depressed, our system is in shutdown," says Avellino. "When we start to release the trapped energy, narratives, pain points, things begin to shift."
- Go outside, even if it’s cold. "We spend a lot of time inside in the winter, which cuts us off from nature," says Avellino. Nature is packed with healing benefits, both physical and mental.
- Visualize. Your imagination can take you to better places. "Practice visualizations that transport you to tranquil places that you’ve been in the past or hope to go," says Avellino.
- Switch up your routine. "Consider new rituals to establish a rhythm to your day," says Avellino. "As seasons change, our circadian rhythm shifts and we need to find what is nourishing, what helps get us out of bed and into our lives."
- Turn up the volume on a mood-lifting playlist. Music has the power to improve your day.
- Phone a friend. Avellino recommends calling people who encourage and energize you.
Affirmations to Repeat When Experiencing Seasonal Depression
These wise words from Avellino serve as reminders during the darker, chillier months.
- "The dark season reminds us that everything in life is impermanent. There was a season before and there will be a season after. Dark periods can be highly reflective and the beginning stages of growth, it’s the season when we turn in to nurture what we want to develop."
- "Consider the snake. When she sheds her skin, she spends a lot of time alone, loses her appetite and is more susceptible to attack, but then she gets her new, tender skin and moves through her world with hunger and determination."