It’s that time of year in Colorado where the winter starts to feel like it’s dragging on (and on, and on…). For some people, that’s a mild annoyance, but for others, it can spur real emotional and mental roadblocks that impede on normal life and zap you of your energy. If you’re struggling to feel like yourself, here are some things to consider to beat seasonal depression.
What Is SAD
First, it’s important to know how the change in weather is affecting you. SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is related to a change in seasons and generally starts and ends around the same time each year. For most it begins toward the end of fall and ends around the time spring is in full effect. It is most commonly characterized by a severe lack of energy and an increased moodiness you would not typically associate with your general disposition. If you’re feeling what’s more commonly known as “the winter blues,” here are some things you can do to lessen symptoms and improve your quality of life while you’re waiting for the seasonal tide to turn once again.
One of the most common treatments for SAD is to increase your exposure to lights that mimic natural sunlight. This is called phototherapy and is fairly easy to achieve, with plenty of options on the market for a variety of price points that can help you regain control of your mood and motivation levels. To do this effectively, you will want lights that are brighter than indoor light but not as bright as direct sunlight. Do not use ultraviolet light, full-spectrum lights, heat or tanning lamps for light therapy. Utilizing light therapy can help reset your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), therefore making your energy levels rise and helping stabilize your mood.
It’s hard to find something exercise doesn’t help with when it comes to your overall health, and SAD is no exception. The release of endorphins that occurs when you are physically active for at least 20 minutes a day help lessen the impact of anxiety and depression and that holds true for SAD, too. If you’re able to exercise outside, all the better, but even hitting the gym at least 3 times a week (preferably 5) will help stabilize energy and mood levels. And hey, if you end up shedding a few pounds or toning up while you’re at it, all the better, right?
Getting Sun Whenever Possible
The lack of sun is often a trigger point for people who develop SAD, but the positive side of living in Colorado is that even in the dead of winter, often the sun is still shining brightly. When that’s the case, try and get outside for at least 20-30 minutes a day. Take a walk on your lunch hour, or get up and take a mid-afternoon break from your desk. On the weekends, head out for a hike with friends, family, and furbabies. Soaking up the sun every chance you get even on the shortest days of the year is the best way to fight off SAD, but often requires supplemental therapies such as phototherapy and increased exercise. A vitamin D supplement may also help when you cannot get enough natural sunlight.
Suffering from SAD can make summer feel like a distant dream that will never arrive. But these tips can help you conquer it, or at least make it more bearable in the interim. If you’re concerned that you may need additional help or medication to help get you back to your normal life, make sure to contact your primary physician.