January, February, and March can be tough on those of us who suffer with mental health issues. Whether it be the extended months of short, cloudy days or the seclusion and feelings of loneliness, winter can be miserable. The official name for significant mood changes that change with the seasons is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D…. Hilarious. If you or someone you know is suffering from S.A.D., we’ve got you. Here are a few pro tips to keep the winter blues away.
5 Essential Steps to Help You Hold Off Seasonal Affective Disorder
Create and Maintain a Routine
One of the easiest life-hacks to beat SAD is to create and maintain a routine. Not only do routines help with a ton of things, like less stress and better sleep, but they also lead to even more benefits down the road. By creating a set and stable routine, you allow yourself to fit in more healthy activities to your day. Working out in the morning, making breakfast, having a cup of tea or coffee to start the day, all of this becomes more possible with a routine.
The best tip we can give for creating a routine is to start by checking your expectations. If you’re waking up at noon right now, then don’t expect to start waking up at 5sm tomorrow. You’ll hate every minute of that. Start small and work your way to a goal. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, you’ll get there.
One of the clever tricks that people have come up with to combat SADness, is light therapy. Scientists believe that light plays a role in Seasonal Affective Disorder, and that the fewer hours of sunlight throughout the winter contribute heavily to the winter blues. The simplest solution to this problem is to add more light to the day. That’s where light therapy comes in.
Light therapy is exactly what it sounds like, douse yourself in light for an extended period of time. Now, before you go stand under the nearest lamp, don’t. There are specialized therapy light boxes designed specifically for the purpose of relieving symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Before buying your light box, try to do a little bit of research to make sure you get the right one. Look for something that provides 10,000 lux of light and as little UV as possible. Make sure to check with your doctor or mental health care provider before starting your light therapy.
Try to Get Outside Every Day
Look, I shouldn’t have to convince anyone that going outdoors has therapeutic benefits, but if there’s still a few nonbelievers, then look here, here, and here. A growing field of study centers around something incredible called ecotherapy. Basically, ecotherapy is the idea of going out into nature to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. The cool thing is that the scientists studying this don’t really know why being outside has such a profound helping effect. It’s just one of those things.
People all over the country are getting a nature prescription from their doctors or mental health providers, but you don’t have to wait for that. It’s literally as simple as going outside. Most doctors agree that 20-30 minutes of outdoor time, three times per week is enough for you to start reaping the benefits. You don’t even have to do anything special. Just being outside for that amount of time, totally immersed in the natural world around you is enough to start easing the nerves. Go outside, find a nice quiet green space like a park, and just breathe for a while. You’ll love it and your brain will thank you by being quiet for a minute.
If you’re a lover of vitamins then boy do I have good news for you. Vitamin D is a rising star in the mental health world, especially with Seasonal Affective Disorder. While there aren’t enough studies to be able to definitively say that vitamin D can help with SAD symptoms, the findings are promising. Most people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder are reporting low levels of vitamin D. This can be because of poor diet or just not being out in the sun enough.
Lucky for you, there are a couple really easy ways to get some vitamin D. First, you could go outside. As I mentioned before, going outside just a few times per week can have tremendous beneficial effects on your mental health. The sun isn’t the only way to get vitamin D either, you can get the same effects with the right therapy light box. You could also try out the vitamin D supplements available at most grocery stores and pharmacies. If you decide to go that route, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor before starting.
Reach Out to a Therapist
Finally, you could always reach out to a therapist for extra assistance. Talk therapy is a great way to unpack everything and get a good look at it, helping you sort through your anxiety, stress, and depression. The normalization of therapy has seen a huge wave of people seeking therapy for the first time, and the results have been wonderful.
You don’t have to go through any of this alone. SAD is miserable, I know, but there are so many avenues available to you. A good therapist can be a literal life saver, these people are absolute superheroes. Don’t worry if you haven’t found the right one yet, it can take time. The benefits are totally worth it though. If you’re in the Metro Detroit area, check out the list of therapists at the Counseling and Resource Center of Dearborn.
Counseling and Resource Center of Dearborn Can Help
We totally get it, winter sucks, especially in Michigan. If you, or someone you love, is suffering with symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s getting to be too much, then it’s time to contact the Counseling and Resource Center of Dearborn. The team of licensed counselors and therapists come from a wide array of backgrounds and are experts in a variety of psychological techniques. Let’s get through the winter blues, together.