It’s happening folks of the northern hemisphere, winter is coming. And the question is… are you mentally prepared?
It may seem silly to “mentally prepare” for winter, but for individuals with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), preparation and preventive care may be just the thing the help stave off the common symptoms. We’ve talked about SAD before, but to recap, SAD is a persistent form of depressive symptoms that shows up during the winter months (for some individuals symptoms can appear in the Spring). Symptoms of SAD include: increased sleep, weight gain, lack of energy, persistent tiredness, lack of interest or joy in life’s activities and irritability, to name a few.
According to the Cleveland Clinic it’s best to start preventive care in the Fall before you’re in the midst of winter. So here is a short list of ways you can decrease or prevent SAD symptoms starting today:
Keep up your regular self care routine
Maintaining the self care routine that already works for you is very important. These should be habits you know work well for you and are already in place. These could include exercise, a healthy diet, socialization, quiet time and having healthy sleep habits.
Adapt your self care routine
As the days get colder and darker you may find that maintaining your usual self care routine is a bit difficult. You can start now to plan for obstacles that will prevent you from regular self care habits and even begin to adjust those habits so that you’ll be ready when winter comes.
Ask yourself: What obstacles might arise that will prevent me from going to the gym or eating healthy? (Hello holiday parties!) Then set a plan for yourself to get around these obstacles. It could also be helpful to buddy up when creating a plan. Having someone to hold you accountable can help keep you moving!
The Cleveland and Mayo Clinics recommend using a light box (that emulates the sun’s light) beginning in the Fall. They also suggest seeing a therapist (another good person to hold you accountable to self care!), getting regular exercise, being out in the sun and maintaining social connections. This could also be a good time to talk to a doctor/psychiatrist about medication if you think it’s necessary, because most medications take about 2 weeks before you start to feel their effects.
Plan for the future
I like to think of this step as the “carrot at the end of the stick.” Planning for the future can give you something to look forward to, especially once you’re deep into winter. Taking and even planning a vacation can have many positive effects on your health and act as a stress reliever. So knowing you have a vacation set for the end of January or an event to attend in mid-February can give you something to look forward to and keep you motivated.
Know where you struggle most
Finally know where and when you’ll need the most help and create strategies to help you through these times. Maybe getting out of bed is difficult, enlist someone to help you or use an alarm that simulates the sunrise to help you wake up easily. If you have a tendency to become a hermit, but want socialization, invite others over to spend time with you. There are endless ways to help yourself, but what’s most important is that the strategy you choose is one that will work for you!
So what are you waiting for? If you suffer from SAD, get started now to decrease your symptoms before winter is here!