I grew up in Vancouver–a city known for its dreary winter weather, but it wasn’t until recently that I made the connection between my sad moods in the winter and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
As the seasons change, bringing shorter days and colder nights, many of us can find ourselves feeling a little down. It’s more than just a dislike for winter’s chill or a longing for summer’s warmth; for me, it’s a profound shift in my mood and energy levels that can affect every aspect of my life.
This phenomenon, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year, typically in the fall and winter, when the days become shorter and sunlight becomes scarce. It’s a time when the loss of a relationship can feel even more pronounced, as the isolation and introspection that often come with fall and winter deepen the sense of solitude.
SAD is more than just “winter blues.” It’s a real and serious condition that can significantly impact your daily life, affecting your energy, appetite, sleep, and mood. Symptoms may include feeling lethargic, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, craving carbohydrates, gaining weight, and struggling to concentrate.
If you’re suffering from S.A.D., it’s worth talking to a mental health professional because there are a number of non-medical treatments that can make a real difference in your wellbeing. This is doubly true when the loss of a relationship is stacked on top.
One of the most effective treatments for SAD is light therapy. Exposure to a light therapy box, which emits a bright light that mimics natural sunlight, can help regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle and mood. Just a few minutes each day can lead to significant improvements. It’s a simple yet powerful tool in combating the effects of reduced daylight and can help lift your spirits by simulating the sunshine that’s missing during the long winter months.
Stay Active and Engaged
Exercise is a powerful mood booster. It releases endorphins, which have naturally antidepressant effects. Even when it’s cold and dark outside, finding ways to stay active is crucial. Whether it’s a brisk walk in the crisp winter air, a yoga session at home, or a visit to the gym, keeping your body moving can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD.
Don’t underestimate the power of connection. Engaging with friends and family, even if it’s virtually, can provide a significant emotional lift. Sharing your feelings, participating in social activities, or simply having a heartfelt conversation can remind you that you’re not alone.
Nourish Your Body and Soul
What we eat can also influence how we feel. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can boost your energy levels and mood. On the other hand, the carbohydrate cravings that often accompany SAD can lead to overeating and weight gain, which can make you feel worse. While it’s okay to indulge in comfort foods occasionally, maintaining a healthy diet can help stabilize your mood and energy levels.
Seek Professional Support
If your symptoms are severe or don’t improve with lifestyle changes, it might be time to seek professional help. Therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), has been shown to be effective in treating SAD. A mental health professional can help you navigate some options and find the best treatment plan for you.
Embrace the Season
Finally, try to find joy in the season. This was crucial for me. While it’s cold and dark outside, winter can also be a time of beauty and reflection. By reframing the snow as an occasional thing of beauty instead of an inconvenience, I was able to get myself excited for the types of activities I could enjoy only when it was snowing. Embrace the coziness of the season by reading a good book, trying a new hobby (outdoors?!?!), or starting a gratitude journal. Finding things to appreciate about the winter can help shift your perspective and lift your mood.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can make the colder months challenging, especially when going through the emotions that come with exiting a relationship, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. With the right strategies and support, you can manage the symptoms of SAD and find joy even in the depths of winter. Remember, spring always follows winter, and brighter days are ahead.