It’s that time of year.
The time of year when I just want to sleep in. And take a nap. And go to bed early. (Not that I ever get a chance to do any of those things, but, you know, I want to.)
The time of year when I find myself lacking energy, battling anxiety, feeling irritable, and acting very much like Eeyore with my “ho-hum” response to pretty much everything.
Winters are hard for me, and I know I’m not alone.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. Symptoms usually begin in the fall, and can continue on into the long winter months. And, parents, it’s important to remember that kids can be affected by SAD, too. Seasonal Affective Disorder is known to be more common in areas where winter days are very short or there are big changes in the amount of daylight in different seasons.
What Seasonal Affective Disorder Looks Like
- Feeling sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious
- Losing interest in your usual activities
- Eating more and craving carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta
- Gaining weight
- Lethargy, lacking in energy, unable to carry out a normal routine
- Sleeping more and feeling drowsy during the daytime
- Social problems, irritability, not wanting to see people
What You Can Do About It
If you find yourself mentally checking things off of that symptoms list, realizing that you may be struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, there are some things you can do to help yourself deal with SAD safely and naturally. If, at any time, your symptoms seem too much, please consult with your doctor.
- Light box therapy – The object of light therapy is to mimic summer light levels during the winter. There are a number of medically approved light boxes on the market, with many available on Amazon. They can be a bit expensive, but many SAD sufferers report great improvements in their symptoms within a relatively short period of time. If your symptoms are impacting your life, a light box may be a very worthwhile investment.
- Sit by a sunny window – Take advantage of any natural light you can get!
- Try to get outside – Especially on sunny days! I’ve been known to take an unscheduled ride into town just to spend 20 minutes with the sun in my face without actually sitting outside in the arctic Minnesota temps.
- Get a good night’s sleep – Easier said than done, I know, but try to keep a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed early enough to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. The lethargy and drowsiness of SAD is bad enough without getting behind in your sleep. This is not a good time for chronic-late-night-it-is.
- Eat a balanced diet – Make sure to get some fresh fruits and vegetables. The simple carb cravings can get intense during the long winter months, whether you suffer from Seasonal affective Disorder or not. Make sure you are eating real foods, and make sure you’re getting something fresh every day. Good food matters!
- Take your vitamins – Try taking a quality multi-vitamin supplement every day. Unless you’re growing all of your own food in incredible nutrient-dense soil and catching wild salmon on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that your diet isn’t getting you all of the vitamins and nutrients you need to function at your very best. A good supplement will help. I’ve been taking SuperMom vitamins for the past couple years, and I can definitely tell when I miss too many days.
- Get out of the house – Even if it’s just to get groceries, try to get out of the house frequently. It’s easy to stay inside way too much when it’s cold and dreary out. Warm up the car, put on a warm coat, bundle up the kids if you need to bring them with (it’ll be good for them, too), and go for a drive. Run to the post office, grab a few groceries, or just drive around for a while letting the toddler take her nap in the car that day. Just get out, break up the monotony, and get the blood moving.
- Get your exercise – Try out the latest popular workout DVD. Use the treadmill that’s been holding up all of those clothes for far too long. Take advantage of the “personal trainer” on your Wii or Xbox. Or try my personal favorite, and challenge your kids to a little Just Dance competition. Just do something! Try to get moving for at least 15 minutes every day. It will feel good, and it will help you keep from putting on those extra pounds that seem to accumulate over the winter (especially if you’ve been giving into your carb cravings).
And last, but most definitely not least…
- Make time with God a priority – When we’re feeling blah, it can be way too easy to put off the things that are the most important to us, like diet and exercise, and even our quiet times with the Lord. We may feel like we just don’t have the energy, or the brain power, to spend time in the Word, or on our knees in prayer, but these are the times when we need to the most. He loves us, He understands, and He wants us to turn to Him for help to get through the hard seasons!
Winters can get to be long, especially up north (I’m in Minnesota), but there is a bright side. There is always a bright side, and when it comes to winter, the bright side is that each and every one is followed by spring!