Are you starting to feel run down, sleeping more, questioning if you’ll ever see the sun again? Girl, I’m with you. Seasonal depression has always hit me hard, but it wasn’t until I moved to the PNW that it truly reared its ugly head. Weeks on weeks of grey can start to get you down making the dark days of winter even darker. I think it’s important to remember when these feelings creep up to remember that you are not alone and brighter days are right around the corner.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD… the acronym is literally SAD) can make you feel like you want to sleep more, eat more, and do less. SAD gets triggered by the changes in light exposure with the seasons and most commonly occurs with the transition from spring/summer to fall/winter. It is common to have sleep disturbances, lack of energy, and changes in appetite. (1) Some people it seems are more affective by the changes in light and might feel an immediate boost when they are out in the sun.
We can use lifestyle and diet to help boost our mood and offer protection from the dreariness of winter. These are good practices to include as a part of your routine to encourage a positive mood.
Scents do affect the way we feel - just think of the way you feel when the tantalizing smell of freshly baked cookies reaches your nose. I love using essential oils to uplift and elevate my mood. My favorite oils this time of year for seasonal affective disorder are sweet orange, peppermint, and lavender. If you have a diffuser, you can combine 3 drops orange + 3 drops lemon + 2 drops peppermint + 1 drop lavender for a boost to get you through your day.
BOOST GOOD MOOD FOODS
Eat to support your neurotransmitters which help produce those “feel good” emotions. Think healthy fats like avocados, proteins like wild caught salmon, and bright colored fruits and vegetables like leafy greens and berries. Five Foods for a Brain Boost has a great snack recipe with some mood lovin’ ingredients.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Break up the stagnant energy by moving your body daily. Yoga or gentle walks are a great way to ease yourself into activity when you don’t want to move. A group exercise class is great for surrounding yourself with community to uplift mood. It doesn’t need to be an intense workout, but the social interaction, ability to focus your mind on something else, and boosting self-confidence can help to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
GET YOUR VITAMIN D
In the winter our vitamin D stores are usually at their lowest, with the sun’s leave of absence. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression as they support neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin. Since vitamin D is fat soluble, we store it which is why it is important to get your levels tested and work with a doctor if you are considering supplementation. Food sources of vitamin D include liver, fatty fish, shiitake mushrooms and egg yolks.
Yes, even when there’s a foot of snow or nonstop rain it is so important to breath in the fresh air and experience the natural light. Light exposure with a light box, referred to as Bright Light Therapy, has been shown to be an effective treatment for depressed symptoms. (2). For symptom relief, sit in front of a bright light box for thirty minutes a day while you work and the exposure helps your neurotransmitters regulate mood.
Tea is definitely my answer to just about ANYTHING, but in particular look for tea blends with depression alleviating herbs such as lemon balm, holy basil, or St. Johns Wort. It is important to note that St. John’s wort should not be used if you are currently taking a SSRI as it can lead to serotonin syndrome.
Remember to always show yourself some grace, sometimes the best therapy is to just sit with your feelings. Journal, meditate, read a book, or call a friend. But if you notice that it starts to be impeding on your daily life, please seek out a medical provider.
TO PIN FOR LATER:
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1. Sandman N, et al. Winter is coming: Nightmares and sleep problems during seasonal affective disorder. Journal of Sleep Research, 2016; 24(5).
2. Menculini G, et al. Depressive mood and circadian rhythms disturbances as outcomes of seasonal affective disorder treatment: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2018; 241:608-626. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2018.08.071.
How do you fight off the winter blues?