For some, the winter season represents celebrations, family, food and fun. For those who suffer from Seasonal Assertive Disorder, this time of year epitomizes boredom, cabin fever, anxiety and depression.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons and begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, zapping all your energy and altering your moods. SAD affects half a million people every winter between September and April, peaking in December, January and February. The "Winter Blues," a milder form of SAD, may affect even more people.
I, unfortunately, am afflicted with SAD. When you grow up soaking in the endless sun in the south then move to a city known for their long brutal winters, adjusting to a polar opposite climate is not easy. Grey skies, below freezing temperatures and being confined to the walls of my house is not my idea of a magical winter wonderland. Usually after the excitement of the holidays fade, I have a hard time staying motivated and develop anxiety. I'd also much rather sleep all day then go through the painful task of getting out of the house when it's cold.
After several years, I finally learned to embrace wintertime by incorporating some new behaviors and activities into my daily life. Here's how you, too, can curb your winter blues:
1. Flee for a weekend or two. If you can escape, do it! Break up the winter months and travel to warmer climates. It's amazing what a few days of fun in the sun can do for you.
2. Brighten up your life. As the sun starts to disappear into the witness protection program, bring the light to you. There are a variety of special lights you can bring into your home for "dawn simulation" which give the right amount of rays to re-energize you. You can also take Vitamin D supplements to help you get through the days of gray.
3. Get a hobby. Remember all those Pinterest ideas you pinned and never took a second look at? There's no better time than the present to revisit all those projects. Having something to do is a sure way to take your mind off of all the snow outside.
4. Start your spring-cleaning early. Why wait until spring? That's when you'll want to do outside activities. Go through all your closets and organize those kitchen junk drawers now. You'll thank yourself later.
5. Focus on what you can do inside. Winter is the perfect time to catch up on all those shows you recorded, binge watch that Netflix series your friends have been raving about, or read the book that has been sitting on your nightstand collecting dust. Grab a blanket, sit by the fireplace and indulge.
6. Take care of you. Don't fall of the wagon and abandon all your good habits as this can lead to depression. It's normal to divulge in all the delicious food the holiday season has to offer, but try to enjoy in moderation. Keep up with your gym routine, or add one, to keep your energy levels up. I took up running one winter and completed a marathon nine months later! Also, when you work out your body produces endorphins and endorphins make you happy! It's a win-win.
7. Socialize. Winter can be a lonely time of year, so invite your friends over for dinner, a movie night or a game night. Always take up an offer to grab drinks with the girls, too. I know it's cold outside and yoga pants are incredibly comfortable, but get up, shave your legs and hit the town.
8. Get help. SAD is a real disorder and if you can't seem to shake the blues, don't be afraid to seek help. Your doctor can provide a treatment plan that's right for you.
One thing I've learned over these last few years is the busier I am the faster the season seems to pass. Unfortunately, hibernation is not an option so fill up your calendar, stock up on some good red wine and enjoy.