Healthy Ways to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Charlie Fletcher 

Image Source: Pexels

The cold autumnal weather has slowly been laying hold of the northern hemisphere over the last few months as the last vestiges of summer slip into the past. Everyone is battening down the hatches, putting away the outdoor summer furniture, swapping out t-shirts and shorts for warmer sweaters and pants, and generally preparing for a long winter ahead. 

One area that is a bit harder to prepare for is the mood-swings that can come with the changing of the seasons. With everything from cloudy weather to an ongoing pandemic weighing on individual minds and hearts, it can be challenging to keep those discouraging feelings in check. 

If you struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), in particular, here are a few healthy suggestions for ways to manage your emotions and stay as positive as possible over the months ahead.

Take Time to Slow Down

It’s tempting to stay busy when you feel depressed. However, it’s very easy to use business as an excuse to avoid acknowledging how you’re actually feeling. If you want to truly tackle your struggle with SAD symptoms head-on, it’s important to start by slowing down. 

Take time to meditate or pray each morning. Calm your mind, unruffle your thoughts, and consider what it is that’s bothering you. Why are you feeling discouraged? Is it something massive, like the pandemic, or something closer to home, such as the fact that it’s dark out both when you wake up and when you get out of work? Taking the time to identify and acknowledge how you’re feeling — especially in an objective manner — is an important step in properly managing SAD.

Talk to Someone

If you’re a verbal processor, it’s also important to find someone you can talk to. Conversations with a friend, family member, or colleague can provide a platform for you to explore your feelings and discover what it is that is causing you to feel down.

In addition, with so much social distancing taking place, the simple act of interacting with someone else, even if it’s via a video chat, phone call, or text message, can do wonders. It can engage your mind, encourage your soul, and generally help you from slipping into an isolated sense of despondency.

Address the Basics

If your body isn’t in good condition, your mental state will naturally struggle more as a consequence. Make sure to provide for your body’s basic self-care throughout the drab months by:

  • Exercising daily: Exercise — whether it’s on a bike, a treadmill, or even at your desk in your home office — releases endorphins that can help to combat stress and anxiety.
  • Getting plenty of rest: Sleep and depression are closely linked. It’s generally recommended to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Eating healthy food: Don’t focus on extremes like weight or comfort, but rather hone in on a well-rounded diet that considers everything from your energy levels to your vein health

By addressing your body’s basic needs, you can provide a firm foundation for your mental health.

Maintain Your Routines

Routines, especially morning and evening routines, can be a lifeline when the days are in flux and your emotions are running wild. As you feel SAD symptoms setting in, it’s tempting to grow forlorn and disheartened. This can lead to a general sense of apathy that may make it hard to stick to schedules and routines.

However, it’s during the cold winter months that routines become more important than ever. A healthy morning routine can help you wake up, focus your thoughts, and get some momentum, regardless of the current state of the weather outside. A predictable bedtime routine can help you shut down bothersome thoughts, slow down, and genuinely rest. 

Look for Natural Remedies

There are also a variety of different natural remedies that you can cobble together to create a tool chest of anti-SAD coping mechanisms, such as:

Before considering a medication solution, try taking advantage of the plethora of natural remedies available.

Successfully Managing SAD

Seasonal affective disorder is a quietly disruptive, perennial force of nature that can completely upend lives on an annual basis. However, if it’s properly identified and managed, the effects of SAD can often be mitigated.

By sticking to routines, practicing basic self-care, using natural remedies, and communicating with friends, it’s possible to fearlessly tackle your SAD symptoms head-on. The restored sense of positivity and control can be the perfect antidote against the discouragement and apathy brought on by colder weather and shorter days.

So refer to the list above, start with your own self-analysis, and then begin strategizing how you can fight for a brighter future this winter. After all, the seasons may be responsible for your SAD symptoms, but what you do about it remains completely in your hands.