With a long, Michigan winter ahead of us, it’s important to be ready to beat the winter blues when not if they pop up. Sure, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the snow, but there’s also a lot of feeling cooped up and isolated, too. It’s important that we see this as scientific fact and not a personal weakness. It’s OK if you don’t feel like yourself and if you need a little more self-care than usual. Getting less sunlight naturally leads to lower serotonin and melatonin levels, which impact mood and essentially make everything harder.
Winter blues are more than just dreading blizzards, wanting to stay in, and wishing for spring. They also show up as sleeplessness, general sadness, and a lack of energy. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), however, is when the winter blues goes a step further. SAD manifests as oversleeping and overeating, being depressed nearly all day every day, having a hard time focusing, acting withdrawn, experiencing a loss of interest in hobbies, a feeling of hopelessness, and sometimes even feeling suicidal.
Here’s what you can do to combat winter blues and SAD:
I know this is a tough sell. It takes energy (and, let’s be honest, is a big mission) to get yourself and the kids ready to leave the house, so you can go to the gym, take a walk around the block, or even play in the snow, but you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home. Turn on a video and get your heart rate up in your living room if you have to. Just make it a point to move your body and focus on your breathing first thing in the morning.
Phone a friend (or counselor).
It’s important to interact with others even if just to tell them you’re not feeling quite like yourself. It’s all too easy to withdraw during the winter months. Therapists can even do sessions over the phone or computer, so you don’t even have to leave your home.
Let the sunshine in.
Open your blinds to let as much natural light into your home as possible. If you’re in the market for a new house, take the windows into consideration. The more your home feels like a cave, the harder the winter will be.
Get a light box.
If you just can’t get enough natural light, buy a light therapy box. They are actually so common that you can find them at Bed Bath & Beyond or online. (Read these guidelines from the Mayo Clinic to make sure you’re getting a safe one). These devices work best when paired with therapy or other treatments, which leads me to my next point.
Talk to your primary care doctor.
Don’t brush this off as too small of a topic to bring up with your doc. In fact, the more she knows about all things related to your health, the better she can treat every issue you have. You are a complete package, and once one problem arises, it will probably lead to others. Be proactive about your mental, emotional, and physical health!