Once you experience something like anxiety or depression it never really goes away. I mean sure, the feelings fade and you feel better, “normal” again. But those feelings of helplessness and complete loss of interest in life tend to leave a mark on you forever. And unfortunately for many, the feelings often come and go.
Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, is a very real and prevalent issue. Many people have no idea they have it, let alone how to deal with it. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt a little dull, unmotivated, and simply down during the long winter months. Something about the shorter days, lack of warmth, and increased workload makes staying in bed all day seem like a much better option than facing the world.
I never really had any idea what it meant and simply chalked it up to, “winter is just depressing.”
Now, a few years later and after a lot of reading & research, I realize this is a very REAL and valid phenomenon. Many people experience some degree of “winter blues” and for some it can be extremely debilitating.
Luckily, this year I’m able to spend a full month away from the cold and dark days of St. Louis. And interestingly enough, it has completely removed allllll of these feelings. It probably has something to do with significantly reduced stress in addition to a LOT more sunshine and a low of 70 degrees.
Through trial and error I’ve attempted to reduce my symptoms as naturally as possible. Not that I don’t believe in conventional medication (I’ve tried that too), but I believe there is often an underlying problem or deficiency that should be addressed directly. Our bodies are constantly working to maintain homeostasis, when we feel off, be it mentally or physically it’s often a sign that something IN is us off.
If you’re noticing changes in your mind and body as the days get shorter and your workload gets heavier, know that these feelings are normal, valid and it absolutely does not make you crazy, different, or abnormal in any way.
I’m (obvi) not a doctor or healthcare professional and cannot give medical advice but here are some of the things that have worked for ME:
Vitamin D: This has probably been the biggest game-changer for me. About two years ago I started taking 1000-2000IU a day especially before the winter months it and I have noticed a huge change in my energy levels, and happiness throughout the day. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D (especially if you have darker skin) and without the daily dose of sun in the winter it can be hard to maintain healthy levels.
Vitamin B Complex: I’ve been taking a vitamin B complex supplement for about a year now and it is the ONLY supplement I have noticed to markedly improve my stress levels. I actually notice a difference on the days I take it vs. when I don’t. This vitamin is especially important for me because I don’t eat a lot of meat so I am not getting it from my diet as most people are.
SUNLIGHT: Sometimes 10 minutes of sunlight is all it takes to brighten your mood. I notice a big difference when I get sun exposure during the day vs. when I don’t. I’ve never tried one, but I hear light therapy lights are extremely effective!
EXERCISE: Endorphins are real!! I feel 1000x better after a workout. In the winter it’s like a cloud has been lifted off my head & I feel new, rejuvenated and ready for the day.
Nourish properly: sooo many foods have an influence on mood. Everything from a lack of healthy fat to unbalanced blood sugar can influence how we feel. When I’m not properly fueling my body (especially in the winter) I’m not myself and my demeanor absolutely suffers.
SLEEP: 7-8 hours of sleep each night is life changing, in every way. It’s especially helpful to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Part of the reason our bodies experience mood changes in the winter is due to the change in our circadian rhythm. I notice I feel significantly more motivated and optimistic when I go to bed and wake up with the sun.