Tips For Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you are part of the five percent of the population that experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you likely can feel it coming as the seasons start to change. It may feel like there’s no escaping the cold, gloomy weather that zaps your energy as feelings of sadness set in. You may have tried many things to help you feel better — light therapy, exercise, vitamins B9 or D, and others — but are still struggling. See below for other strategies to improve your S.A.D.

Action, direction, and acceptance – Neuroscientist Alex Korb, author of “The Upward Spiral”, postulates that you have three options in any difficult situation — you can take action, you can clarify and remember your established goals, or you can realize that you can’t do anything. This model can be applied to coping with S.A.D. Assess your day to see where you can employ directions, e.g. try setting your running shoes out before you go to bed. This will make it easier to “act” in the morning.

Practice good sleep hygiene – Korb also advocates tackling S.A.D. by focusing on sleep. Most people with S.A.D. experience insomnia or hypersomnia — sleeping too little or too much. Because sunlight helps sync your sleep/wake cycle with your circadian rhythm, a lack of sunlight can interrupt sleep. So, in the darker winter months, improving the quality of your sleep will decrease depression symptoms.

If you feel lethargic and unmotivated, resist the urge to sleep in. Commit to a schedule — set an alarm, practice good sleep hygiene, and put yourself and your mental health first. Korb also warns against getting mad at yourself when you don’t do what you set out to. Once you accept yourself and recognize the things that are hard to find motivation for, you can better see how to address that lack of motivation.

Others have implemented creative strategies to help reduce the effects of their S.A.D. Try visualization — one person affected by SAD visualizes herself floating on a raft; she finds this alleviates feelings of irritability and disrupts the cycle that leads to anxiety and depression. Another added a dog to her family, which helps her commit to a routine of getting out of the house with her dog. Try intermittent fasting and eat within a specific daily window; avoiding late dinners may help preserve your mood. Finally, embrace the Danish concept of hygge (coziness) and carve out time to read in front of the fire (even if it’s a crackling virtual fire) with blankets and pillows.