If you’ve ever wondered whether “seasonal depression” is a real thing, I am here to tell you it most certainly is! We’re about half-way through winter and if you live in the Midwest or watch the news, you know we just went through one of the coldest times in history (#polarvortex). I literally did not go outside for four whole days! Since moving to Chicago, I’ve noticed a difference in my mood on gloomy days vs. sunny days. And when the sun doesn’t show her beautiful face all week, that certainly starts to take a toll.
From living in the Midwest, to moving to Californina, to moving back to the Midwest, I can safely say that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is very real. It wasn’t until I left the Midwest that I noticed how much better my anxiety was overall. I believe that winter led me into a pretty serious seasonal depression, which greatly affected my anxiety. When I lived in Minnesota, I would practically shut down. I wouldn’t take care of myself, I would drink more and eat worse, and I just stopped caring. All not good!
While I’ve done my best to take care of myself this winter, I can definitely feel the affects of last weeks polar vortex. So, to get me out of this seasonal depression, I’m focusing on taking care of both my body and my mind. As I assume I’m not the only one feeling the winter woes, I thought I would share:
- Get outside (if you can!) I broke this rule last week by staying inside every day and I felt the effects pretty quickly. I was honestly scared to go outside because even my apartment was cold! But not getting any fresh air definitely makes me feel less motivated and lazy. Until now, I’ve made it a point to get outside for even 15 minutes every single day. There are days when I’ve literally got nothing planned except for blogging, and it would be so easy to sit inside all day. Instead, I’ve forced myself to take breaks, to get outside and stretch my legs. You’d be surprised at the effect even 15 minutes of fresh air (and possibly) sunshine can have on you!
- Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated helps you sleep better, makes your joints feel better, and helps with digestion.
- Exercise. While we all know how important it is to exercise, but it’s especially important during times where you may sink into seasonal depression. Exercise can increase your dopamine levels, which is exactly what you need! I definitely feel better when I’ve gotten a workout in, even if that means I’m being lazy the rest of the day.
- Take vitamins. Vitamin D and B12 are important to take during the winter, so you might need to add these as a supplement and see if they make a difference.
- Don’t oversleep! This might not be a problem for everyone, but it definitely is for me. Your body naturally starts to shut down when it notices it’s dark outside. So when it starts getting dark at 5:30, you might find yourself wanting to climb into bed at 7. Well, unless you plan on getting up at 3-4:00 am, you’ll likely get too much sleep. Try not to go to bed too early, and if you do, you should try to get up 7-8 hours after (if that’s normally how many hours you get).
- Limit your alcohol intake. I like going out for drinks just as much as the next person, but as each year passes my hangovers get worse and worse. I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungover I turn into the laziest person ever. And when this happens too regularly, it’s no wonder you’re starting to slip into a seasonal depression! Alcohol is a depressant, afterall.
- Stay connected and be social. When winter comes, it’s super easy to hibernate for days at a time. I’m an introverted extrovert, so I don’t need a lot of social activity to feel “happy”. BUT I do think when you go too long without talking to your friends and family, it can start to take a serious toll on your wellbeing. I try my best not to hide, but instead keep in touch with people regularly. Sometimes that even means FaceTiming with my bestie who literally lives 1 mile away.
- Book a trip! Maybe the most obvious solution, but a vacation can really help break up the long winter. In fact, I’m finishing up this blog post as I sit by the pool in West Palm Beach, Florida 😎 Although I’m here for work, I’m soaking up as much sunshine as I can and can already tell how much better I feel. Sunshine, beaches, palm trees… these are things that make me instantly happy. It’s also nice to have something to look forward to when the winter months start feeling extra long.
Winter can be beautiful, but it can also affect your mental wellbeing. And while some of these suggestions may be obvious, it’s easy for us to break the habits by the time January/February rolls around. I’m hoping this blog will be the reminder you need to help ease your seasonal depression symptoms and get you through the rest of winter. I honestly think if you go into winter with a positive mindset and do some/all of these things on a regular basis, you’ll feel so much happier. And if you need some more ideas, I’ve compiled a list of things you can do to instantly boost your mood 😀 And just remember: we’ve only got 43 more days until Spring!
What are some things you do to survive the long, winter months?