From an emotional perspective the months of February and March are the worst months of the year for me. I definitely suffer from SAD - seasonal affective disorder, also well known as the winter blues. What I have learned is that SAD is diagnosed more often in women than it is in men.
In this part of Canada winter typically begins with a cold blast sometime in October and the last bits of snow and ice usually do not melt until sometime in May. While we do experience many sunny days during that time, the sun is too far away to make a difference.
“Living far from the equator: Seasonal affective disorder appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator.” Cities in the far north actually have a high suicide rate.
Plus, for the sun to really help you, you need to expose bare skin to sunlight (without sunscreen) for at least 20 minutes a day. When temperatures average somewhere between 5 degrees Celsius (on a good day) and minus 20 degrees Celsius, for 8 months straight, you do not really want to expose your arms or legs to the sun for very long.
The months between October and January really do not bother me. But I always notice that come February I start to experience the following symptoms in varying degrees:
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
Are you currently experiencing any of those symptoms?
What I’ve discovered through research is that there are ways to cope with the winter blues and deal with the symptoms brought on by seasonal affective disorder or SAD. If you also find that you suffer from the winter blues here are some different things that I have tried over the past 12 years to help myself get through these winter months without ruining my life completely. :-)
10 Great Ways To Increase Your Energy And Beat The Winter Blues
Take Plenty of Vitamin D3
“It’s amazing how quickly adequate levels of vitamin D can be restored by sunlight. Just 6 days of casual sunlight exposure without sunscreen can make up for 49 days of no sunlight exposure.” – Source: WebMD – Vitamin D
People living in Canada and the northern half of the US, are especially at risk when it comes to suffering from Vitamin D3 deficiency because we live so far away from the equator. Taking mega doses of vitamin D3 on a daily basis helps our bodies combat a number of health issues.
When we talk about the winter blues, the benefit received from taking vitamin D3 is that it helps us deal with issues of depression, mood swings, and so on.
A typical average daily dose of D3 for an adult is 2,000 to 5,000 IU per day. I typically take 4 to 5,000 IU with my dinner.
Follow a Healthy Diet
Eat more complex carbohydrates and protein. I’ve noticed over the years that protein instantly boosts my mood. If I just have toast for breakfast I begin feeling irritable a few hours later. If I have eggs with my breakfast I simply feel better all day long.
I also try to avoid processed foods and ease up on anything with sugar. As well, and you probably do this, I try my best to drink copious amounts of water. I have friends and family members that only drink a glass a day. I'm not sure why.
Keeping yourself fit and working out regularly can always keep the blues away. Exercising boosts your energy level and helps with your metabolism too. We have an Elliptical machine in our home office and my husband and I challenge each other to do more and more everyday.
Get Enough Sleep
Your body needs to rejuvenate and repair itself especially during these cold months. Getting enough sleep gives you the energy you need for the day. Be careful not to oversleep though because it can make you feel more tired. We try to keep a consistent sleeping schedule by going to bed between 9:30 and 11 PM. Our alarm goes off at 8 AM (one of our joys of working from home).
Comedies and Music
Watch your favorite funny sitcoms or make some popcorn and enjoy a funny movie.
The Comedy channel is great to watch this time of year as well, especially Jeff Dunham who is an American ventriloquist and stand-up comedian.
The other thing that works well is to listen to Bob Marley while imagining myself playing on a beach in the Caribbean.
Relax and Treat Yourself
Indulge in something you enjoy during the winter months.
Have a special spa day all to yourself complete with a massage and facial.
Invite a few people over for a dinner party.
Don’t work too much or overstress yourself with things that need to be done.
Take time to just do nothing and relax for a few minutes each day.
Meditate. Learn yoga. Calming your mind and your spirit can definitely change your mood.
Do A Winter Activity Or Go On A Holiday
It’s winter after all and there are activities that you can only do during winter.
Try out something new. Go skiing, snowboarding or ice skating. About 10 years ago I took skiing lessons and then for the next few winters I did a few skiing trips with friends. Even though I wasn't very good at skiing it was fun to get away to the mountains.
Doing fun winter activities can help elevate your mood during the winter months.
If you really can’t stand the cold weather, why not go somewhere warmer? Or you don’t even need to go somewhere warmer. Go someplace new or different.
Planning a fun weekend can definitely brighten up your mood.
Set Personal Goals
Challenge yourself and set small goals during the winter season. Think about what you can cross off your bucket list.
Having that personal challenge and working towards something may help you get your mind off the weather. It’s always a good thing to set your mind to something productive and healthy.
Ask For Help
If nothing seems to combat your winter blues, consider getting help from a specialist.
Seasonal affective disorder is a real condition and nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed about. Talking to a counsellor or a specialist can be more helpful than you realize.
Try Light Therapy
Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.
Light therapy is one of the first line treatments for seasonal affective disorder. It generally starts working in two to four days and causes few side effects.
Letting more light into your days can help chase those winter blues away.
Do you currently feel like you have the winter blues? Do you, or someone you know, suffer from seasonal affective disorder? How are you dealing with it?