It’s not uncommon to feel kind of sad during the winter, but it can be deeper than just the emotion. From the end of October until the spring is what’s known as SAD season, the time of year that some people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s a kind of depression related to changes in season and being exposed to less sunlight, and it can leave you feeling low and blue.
Common symptoms of SAD include having a depressed mood for most of the day over the span of two weeks or more, a lack of pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy, as well as changes in energy, motivation, sleep or appetite, according to psychiatrist Anisha Patel-Dunn. Fortunately, she says there are some simple things that you can do to maintain positive mental health during SAD season.
- Follow a sleep routine by waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Make sure to get healthy nutrients during the day and don’t eat heavy meals right before bed.
- Go outside for fresh air and sunshine as often as you can.
- Exercise. Research shows that 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise four to five times a week can improve mood, Patel-Dunn says.
- Avoid coffee and alcohol close to bedtime.
- Don’t use your phone or other electronics that give off blue light before going to sleep.
- Reach out to a loved one you can trust and talk to about how you’re feeling.
- Get help from a professional if you feel overwhelmed.
This expert also shares some tools you can use to avoid SAD:
- Using a 10-thousand lux light box for 30 minutes every morning has been shown to help with SAD, according to Patel-Dunn.
- Sunrise alarm clocks mimic the colors of the sunrise and can be helpful for those who find it challenging to get up before the sun is up.
- Journaling at night, writing down anything that’s making you anxious can help with self-awareness.