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5 Tips For Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder

I like to consider myself an expert in depression.

Not a medical expert, mind you. More of an experience expert. I have been sad. I have been melancholy. I have been depressed. In fact, I spent so much of my childhood being all three of these things that when they come back, I often greet them like an old friend. I wrap them around me like a second skin and resign myself to a few months of laying on the couch eating Doritos.

While I am a much happier person these days, I do find that I still get bouts of depression. Unfortunately, because I am a high-functioning person even during these down times, it can be hard for me to notice when it has gotten really bad. After all, it has followed me for most of my life, so sometimes I can’t tell when it begins to take up residence again.

Oftentimes, it is triggered by the weather.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder is a version of depression which comes and goes with the season. To grossly oversimplify, when the sun goes away, so does your motivation and cheer.

I suffer strongly from this, and since I happen to live in a state with some of the longest winters on record, alongside the shortest days of winter, I have had to find ways to deal with it. Some winters, if it is truly bad, “dealing with it” means sleeping a lot and crying whenever I have to leave the house, which my boyfriend thinks is super hot.

But some winters, I do alright for myself. Here are my tips for getting through the worst part of the year with your sanity intact.

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I feel that a slide leading to a jagged pool of ice is truly emblematic of my life between October and April.

1: Take the D

Vitamin D is something that Alaskans looooove to talk about. Mostly because we are all critically low, and misery loves company. Vitamin D is associated with all kinds of things, and it is suspected to fight cancer. It also gives you energy, something that winter has a tendency to suck out of all of us.

Talk to your doctor about the right levels to take during the winter, and whether you should continue taking it in the summer. For an Alaskan, regular doses range from 6000 IUs to 8000. For people down in the lower 48, that will likely be much lower.

2: Get Outside

This seems counterproductive, because the outside is the thing that’s making you sad. However, fresh air and nature are both known to boost your mood and get you energized. I know that a day spent inside makes me feel trapped, and all it takes if fifteen minutes of walking outside to get me happy again.

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Of course, this means investing in proper winter gear, something that I have made a priority recently. Last year I was so broke that I was often stuck outside in Converse during the iciest part of the season. Yeah, no thanks.

3: Get Into The Season

Perhaps I am biased, because I love the holidays, but I have found that a good old dose of holiday cheer can be a helpful distraction during the worst of it. If I start with planning Halloween in September and I continue right on through New Years, well, there’s half the winter gone already.

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If I’m truly motivated, I can even plan through Valentine’s Day (which also doubles as my anniversary because my boyfriend and I are gross romantics).

I have found that getting excited about the holidays also takes the edge off of the anticipation of winter, which used to bring me so much stress that it would ruin the tail-end of summer just thinking about it.

So go out there, get yourself a damn pumpkin spice latte, and go Christmas shopping in September. Nobody is going to stop you.

4: Don’t Disrupt Your Routine

This is probably the greatest offender for me. In the summers, I am active beyond belief (mostly because I’m jacked up on Vitamin D and Starbucks iced coffees). As soon as the frost hits, my instinct is to stop all exercise and try real hard to fuse to my couch. Same with my eating patterns and my socializing.

What helps is consciously trying to maintain whatever you do in the summer. This tricks your brain into thinking that everything is fine, nothing’s happening, it’s all okay. So, if you normally eat a lot of fruits and veggies during the summer and you exercise, don’t let that slip when it starts to get cold. Sure, it’s harder, and it can be a bummer to go from jogging in sunlight to jogging on a treadmill, but it does help to fight off that blah feeling that has a tendency to sneak up right around Halloween.

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5: Bring Summer to You

This is one of my favorite things to do when all else fails. If I can’t afford to get out of state during the winter, then I take a mental health day, jack up the heat in my house, put on some short shorts and a tank top, and make myself a summer spread complete with fruit, pasta salad, and a sweet treat at the end.

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I’ll also light a beach-scented candle or buy a fruity hand soap from Bath and Body Works. After all that, I’ll usually watch a classic summer movie or read a Sarah Dessen novel (my favorite is “Along For the Ride”). It probably sounds a little nutso, but for me it does help quite a bit. Sometimes, all I need is the essence of summer to make me feel better.

So there you have it, my tricks and tips for making it through the winter. If any of you live in a cold place like I do, feel free to leave your own tips in the comments below. If you’ve written on this subject, then please leave a link to your blog post in the comments.

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Wherever you are, I hope you’re staying happy and healthy. I know this time of year can be hard for a lot of people, but together we can all make it suck less.



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