Health & Wellness - Self-Care Tips for the Winter Blues or SAD

Courtney Rupertus
Health & Wellness - Self-Care Tips for the Winter Blues or SAD

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder affects many of us, particularly in this area, because daylight is in such short supply.

SAD is real for those who experience it and it is not a ‘lighter’ version of major depression. The symptoms are just like that of depression; it just happens to wreak the most havoc during the dark winter months.

Some of the signs or symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include the following:

  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble focusing
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns (oversleeping or insomnia)
  • Changes in appetite (quite frequently an increased craving for carbs)
  • Forgoing activities and social events you once enjoyed
  • Heaviness in arms or legs
  • Relationship strain
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms and self-medicating with sleep, food, alcohol, or other substances, please reach out to a trusted health care provider right away.

That said, there are some of us out there who already know that we are susceptible to SAD, and there are a few self-care measures that you can use to make sure you stay on track.

Medication and light therapy have been proven to help with mild to severe cases of SAD, so no matter what, you’ll want to check in with your doctor about a personal care plan to manage symptoms.

Above and beyond that, taking care of oneself, setting positive boundaries, and engaging in mood enhancing activities can go a long way to improve these long winter months.

Some winter self-care tips could include the following:

Find a support person - Whether it’s your spouse, friend, mother, or someone else you trust and connect with, find someone who can support you in the way that you need. That could mean holding you to a weekly sip and talk by the fire, or getting you out for a walk. Determine what it is that you need to feel good and find someone who can be a positive accountability partner for you.

Rearrange your schedule to embrace daylight - Now, this isn’t always the most convenient possibility if you have a job that sets your daily schedule, but there are still a couple tweaks you can make to your routine for the better, like taking a walk outside on your lunch break, spending time near a sunny window in your office building, or developing a calming morning ritual like meditation or exercising. If you’re not beholden to a specific schedule, don’t hibernate during sunlight hours. Get outside and do something fun during the daylight hours. Piles of laundry or paperwork can always be done by the fire once the sun sets. 

Start taking a Vitamin D supplement - One option that you can discuss with your health care provider is taking a Vitamin D supplement, like drops, which have a positive affect on your mood. Additionally, the supplement 5-HTP has been shown to promote mood balance as well. 

Get back to basics - Sometimes the best way to care for yourself is to eliminate any stress-inducing activities from our schedule. Scale back on unnecessary outings and simply hit that reset button. Get on a sleep schedule and stick to it, take time to prepare nourishing meals, take long walks - make time and space to do things that make you feel reenergized and reconnected.

Do nothing - Do nothing, without guilt. For those who know what SAD or depression is like, then you know that you carry around a lot of baggage like guilt, shame, negative self-talk, and feelings of very low self worth. It won’t be easy, but try a little bit each day of just sitting and thinking about something positive about yourself. Let that negative chatter float out of your mind with ease. 

For those with someone in their lives dealing with SAD or another form of depression, please don’t reinforce these feelings of guilt and shame by confronting them with seemingly helpful advice like, “Pull your socks up!” or “Just get over it already!” Instead, simply remind the person that you are there for any support they may need, without judgment, and simply be available. 

And remember, even the cheeriest person you know could be fighting an invisible battle you know nothing about.