Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is nothing to joke about. When the days get shorter, those affected by SAD are feel both the literal and metaphorical darkness taking over, almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality switch.
If you suffer from SAD, there are a few easy ways that you can prepare for the shorter days, grayer weather and the coming winter so it doesn’t creep up on you like the villain in an old horror film.
1. Take Advantage Of The Light
Getting up an hour earlier each morning will help you feel sleepier an hour earlier every night. Resetting your internal clock so that it starts earlier will allow your day to be filled with more light, which can seriously help your SAD, according to Michael J. Rice, PhD, a professor of psychiatric nursing at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
“The farther north you live, the earlier you can expect symptoms of seasonal affective disorder,” Rice told Everyday Health. “One way to prepare is to set your internal clock [earlier] each morning. This is called phase shifting.”
Rice advises people with SAD to have 10,000 lux lighting installed in their kitchen area. Then, in late autumn, you should prepare and eat your breakfast under the lighting at around 7 a.m.
2. Fight Symptoms With A Light Box
If you don’t want to install lux lighting in your kitchen then try a simple light box, according to Everyday Health.
You can sit in front of or next to the light box as part of your phase shift, and it might help reduce some of SAD’s symptoms, like sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, irritability and social withdrawal.
3. Try To Develop A Nighttime Hobby
SAD can create a “sinking and restless” feeling once you’re off of work and your mind has less to do, according to Chrissa Hardy at Bustle. To help combat this, Hardy recommends taking up a fun nighttime hobby to occupy your mind when you don’t have plans at night.
Maybe you could learn how to bake, sew, or just buy an adult coloring book. Hardy says that doing something with your hands will prevent you from gazing sadly out of your window or feeling helpless.
4. Exercise Any Depression Away
Nothing is more difficult to do when you’re depressed than motivate yourself to exercise. That’s why you should get into an exercise routine before late autumn, so you don’t feel like you’re forcing yourself to do something that you’re not used to.
According to Everyday Health and Lifehacker, there are a million psychological studies that all conclusively say exercise can considerably help with the symptoms of depression or depressive disorders.
5. Keep Good Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep hygiene, or habits, is key to managing symptoms of disorders like SAD. Rice told Everyday Health that you should try to go to bed at the same time every night and get at least eight hours of sleep.
“Understanding and regulating your body rhythms is the best way to manage seasonal affective disorder, [and] one body rhythm you can learn to control is your sleep cycle,” Rice said.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Feel Sad Or See A Doctor
You will have bad days, and understanding and accepting those bad days is an important part of overcoming them.
If you’re feeling especially bad one day and you feel like you’re bottling it up, then don’t. Watch a sad movie, listen to emotional music and let yourself have a good cry.
If crying a bit doesn’t help you feel better, then make an appointment to see a professional. If you know yourself well enough to know that you just can’t deal with your SAD with simple tips and tricks, then make an appointment with your doctor before late autumn to set up a plan for how you’re going to get through winter.
7. Redecorate Your Bedroom
Hardy from Bustle recommends redecorating your bedroom to keep yourself busy, declutter your surroundings and give yourself a fresh start.
The latter is something that people with SAD often need in the face of the winter ahead. Try to make your bedroom a space of relaxation or happiness with new colors, fresh prints and comforting candles.
8. Snuggle With Your Partner
The best part of fall and winter is that you finally have a great excuse to cuddle with your significant other. According to Psychology Today, cuddling is scientifically proven to make you a happier person. So, turn on a great movie and start snuggling!
9. Try To Keep A Healthy Diet
A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that a healthy diet might help you fight off both depression and anxiety.
Specifically, the study found that women whose diets were high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins had a lower risk for depression than women whose diets were high in fried foods, added sugars, refined grains and processed foods.
10. Make A Cold Weather Bucket List
There are so many wonderful things that you can do in fall that just don’t make sense or would be too hot to do in the summer.
If you live in the Northeast (or have family who does), then try to go apple picking in early to mid fall. Or have a pumpkin-carving party with your friends in October.
Or — one of my personal favorites — visit a local corn maze and get lost for a few hours with friends or family.
Cold weather activities can provide a certain level of comfort that you don’t find in summer, so take advantage of all the exciting possibilities.
Photo by yojimboa