• Colleen Lennon, LCSW

How to Beat the Winter Blues

With the cold weather months upon us and darkness creeping in earlier and earlier, these colder weather months can have a profound impact on our mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD, has been known to impact many during the cooler months of the year, especially as the lack of sunlight continues to increase. I often get asked by my clients what they can do to help them with the “funk” they feel during the dark and cold winter months. SAD can bring on low mood, decreased energy levels, fatigue, loneliness, appetite changes, irritability and anxiety.

​ The DSM-V, Seasonal Affective Disorder is not an actual diagnosis, but rather is a specifier for Major Depressive Disorder when there is a distinct seasonal pattern in symptoms presenting during a certain time of year. Interestingly, there has been a prevalence of seasonal major depressive disorder based on latitude and age, in such that living in areas of higher latitudes and younger persons have higher risks of winter depressive episodes.

​ So what can you do if you feel like you are frequently in a “funk” or have symptoms of depression during the winter months?

Below are some helpful tips to try:

1. Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Light therapy are often recommended to help with seasonal major depression. CBT is a form of talk therapy that focuses on changing negative thought and behavioral patterns into more positive ones in attempts to decrease the symptoms of depression associated with the negative thoughts or behaviors. Light therapy is form of therapy in which the individual is exposed to bright light by using a light box in attempts to mimic the effects of natural sunlight. You can buy a SAD lamp in many stores, even on Amazon!

2. Sleep Hygiene: Make the times you go to bed and wake up earlier so you will be able to utilize and enjoy more of the daylight time and maximize your exposure to sunlight. Create a new schedule and stick to it.

3. Healthy Habits: Continue to eat balanced, get 7-8 hours of sleep, drink plenty of water, and movement as part of your daily routine ect. All of these healthy habits can improve your mood and can help manage stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression.

4. Take Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a supplement which is often low during the winter months due to the decrease in exposure to light. Try adding a daily supplement (please also talk to your doctor before taking any new drugs or supplements to make sure they are safe for you).

5. Activity Scheduling: Having something to look forward to or participating in an activity you enjoy can help to keep your mood up. Make plans with friends and family, volunteer, take a class, go on a vacation, especially to a place with sunshine, try a new hobby or workout, read a book you have always wanted to read, see a movie or show, etc. Find something that interests you or lifts your spirits and do that, and do it often.

Feeling down or in a funk is a common complaint among people during the winter months, even more so if you live in an area where the winters are cold and unforgiving.

Hopefully with these tips you will be able to improve your mood and enjoy the season!

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