With the shorter days, colder weather, and darker days in the northern hemisphere, many people may be experiencing the seasonal blues and even seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In fact, up to 20-40% of all adults may experience SAD every year.
💡 The good news is that there are a few recommended strategies that may help: Focus on what you can change, get enough sleep, keep a schedule, use a bright light, plan activities, and take breaks regularly.
SAD is a seasonal type of depression that happens every year, usually during the fall/winter months and happens for at least two years in a row. Some signs you may be experiencing SAD: increased or decreased ability to sleep, decreased energy or fatigue, anxiety, decreased motivation, less desire to see people or be around people, and sad mood. These symptoms coincide with a change in the season.
People often call this the winter or seasonal blues. This is a general way to talk about this and not a diagnosis. Sometimes people think of the winter blues as what most people experience in the winter and SAD as a more severe form of the winter blues. If someone has SAD, they may need additional help to feel better. You can learn more about SAD here.
The pandemic has made it harder to cope with both seasonal blues and SAD. Therapists usually recommend fighting the winter blues by: being outside of the home, gathering with friends and family, exercising, and even travelling to sunny places. With COVID-19 cases going up, it is a good time to talk about other strategies that you can take to help you feel better.
🌈 SIX TIPS FOR FIGHTING SEASONAL BLUES 🌈
1. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CHANGE. We can’t change what others do or what new restrictions may come during this pandemic, but we can focus on what we can do to reduce our own anxiety.
2. GET ENOUGH SLEEP and create a routine. Be consistent with wake up time and bedtime (Target 7-8 hours per night), avoid screens an hour before bedtime, and create a wind down routine in the evening.
3. KEEP A SCHEDULE. Stick to a schedule whether or not you are leaving the house. Shower and get dressed every day, follow regular meal patterns, and create separation between working and resting time.
4. USE A BRIGHT LIGHT. Use a commercial light box, happy light, or SAD light. Boxes with at least 10,000 lux of light can improve seasonal changes in mood. Sit to the side of it for 20-30 minutes in the morning. Some also offer alarm clock options to remind you of the sun rising. Use it consistently and still try to get outside for 30 minutes a day. The morning is the best time for a walk or for using the light box.
5. DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY. Fight the desire to do nothing at all. Many experts recommend this technique called behavioral activation. Basically, when someone starts doing more things they eventually feel better. When people do more positive things, their mood improves.
6. TAKE BREAKS. Take breaks from your day when you need it. Getting outside is very important for getting more sunlight (even if it is a cloudy day). It is also good to take work and life breaks by doing simple things that help to create fun in the day.
☁️ We hope these six tips help you to fight some of the blues of the season. If you are feeling worse and trying new strategies is not working, we encourage you to seek help. Medications like antidepressants can also be extremely effective in treating symptoms and helping to prevent relapse of depressive symptoms if appropriate.
Stay Safe. Stay Sane. And Stay Hopeful!
Those Nerdy Girls
Please note: If you need additional resources, Mental Health America (MHA) offers a great way to search for resources. And if you are in need of immediate assistance, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; Hearing Support: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Information on SAD