Have you noticed that seasonal depression seems to be hitting everyone extra hard this year? I’ve seen so many tweets and memes on the topic lately, confirming that many of us are experiencing that familiar melancholy that attacks every fall and winter.
For me, it seems to worsen after daylight savings time – suddenly the sun is setting at 5pm. Most of us with a 9-5 job are just getting off work. All of my free time becomes limited to the dark hours of the day. Sometimes after work, it feels difficult to do anything that requires energy since it already feels like nighttime. It can be disappointing to realize that I’ve spent all my daylight hours behind my desk. Usually there is a combination of factors that leads to the experience of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. For me, this includes less activity, less light, less warmth, more stress and days that seem to start and end with working.
Fortunately, there are many options for helping SAD symptoms and improving your mood during these shorter, colder days. If you are not familiar with these symptoms, here’s what to look out for. It’s important to reach out to a therapist or health care provider if you are concerned that you might be suffering from SAD. Several effective ways to address seasonal depression, from lifestyle changes to office modifications, are outlined in this article.
Enjoy the Outdoors
If you have the privilege of choosing your schedule, such as with a flexible remote job, you can look into adjusting your schedule to have time outside during daylight hours. With a more rigid schedule, you could still use your lunch break to get some sunshine. On warmer days, you may even be able to take your laptop outside and work in the fresh air. I have found that I feel recharged through the rest of the day by spending just an hour outside.
To benefit your emotional and physical health even more, try to get active while you’re outside. For example, I like to break up the work day with a long walk after lunch. It seems to keep me consistently energized throughout the afternoon. As an additional benefit, the endorphins from exercise boost my mood. Don’t let the cold keep you from enjoying outdoor activities. Just put an extra layer on and get out there!
Do the words “self care” evoke mental images of spa days with face masks and manicures? While that may be how some people choose to indulge, self care can look different for everyone. Maybe your version of self care is spending time on your favorite hobby or visiting with friends. It’s the stuff that makes you happy. Treat yourself to some self care activities this winter to help you stay positive. For my self care, I enjoy journaling, listening to music or doing yoga to help me unwind and feel better after a long day. By actively seeking out the experiences that make your day brighter, you can stay one step ahead of seasonal depression!
Do Some Spring Winter Cleaning
In the cold months of the year, most of us spend less time going out and more time staying in. It’s a great idea to make your space feel fresh if you will be staying home more than usual. Why wait for Spring cleaning? It can be very rewarding to do some deep cleaning and rearranging to make your accommodations feel new-to-you again. Just imagine all the cozy nights you will enjoy in your nice, clean space. If you work from home like I do, you know that it’s easy to be distracted by messes throughout the work day. I notice that I am more motivated to work hard when I know that I have a comfortable and clutter free place to relax after I finish my projects for the day.
Winterize Your Office
Find out what temperature is best for your office during the winter. Some people like me enjoy being nice and toasty with a space heater under their desk and maybe even a blanket to wrap up in. Others that I’ve spoken with prefer the cool weather while working because it helps them focus. Whatever your preference, staying comfortable while working is essential.
Also consider brightening up your workspace. Try to sit near a window if possible, so you have more light exposure. Another option is to add a lightbox to your office. These devices can replace the sunlight that your body is lacking during the shorter days of the year. Many people find that having a lightbox on their desk is enjoyable, like they are sitting in the sun all day while they are working. The Verilux® HappyLight® seems to be the most popular choice when it comes to lightboxes, with users reporting mood boosting, energizing effects.
Get Extra Sleep
If you feel like you need more sleep during this time of year, it’s because you probably do. Our circadian rhythm responds to the shorter days in ways that can increase our need for rest. Melatonin production can be impacted by shorter days and is released by the body earlier in the day. You may want to try to add an afternoon nap in your schedule, since this has the ability to counter the excess melatonin. As Dr. Carleara Weiss states “according to data from the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults tend to sleep 1.75 to 2.5 hours more during winter.” So take it easy and don’t judge yourself for needing more rest than usual. No one should feel bad for slowing down in the wintertime. After all, that’s what the rest of nature seems to do during this season.
Pay Attention to Media Consumption
Have you ever found yourself feeling scared or hopeless while catching up on current events? When scrolling through social media or watching the news, make sure that you consider your mental health and your particular thresholds. If you find yourself overwhelmed by information, you may have reached your limit. It’s a good idea to take a break from your phone or tv when you need to. Personally, I try to balance out this feeling by seeking out positive news or indulging in wholesome, feel-good entertainment. ‘Tis the season for binging classic holiday movies or getting cozy with a favorite book.
Discover What Works Best for You
It may take some trial and error to figure out the best ways for you to combat your unique experience of SAD. I hope that these suggestions will help whatever symptoms you are dealing with during this season. Now you can feel more prepared to face the cold, gloomy days ahead with a toolkit of strategies to keep you feeling your best. Stay strong this season and do what you can to stay positive.
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