Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) impacts about 5% of adults in the U.S. It can cause symptoms like fatigue, hopelessness, social withdrawal, insomnia, and an inability to tolerate stress. Throughout the cold winter months, dealing with everything from changes in your sleep habits to loss of interest in things you typically enjoy can make things feel incredibly bleak. Unfortunately, that’s often the reality for people with SAD until the weather makes a change.
Short of moving to a more tropical climate, there are treatment options for managing the symptoms of SAD. But, one of the best things you can do is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Winter is coming – there’s no denying that. So, what can you do to prepare for the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder before it threatens to take over your mental well-being?
Start Your Mornings Earlier
One of the most effective techniques to prepare yourself for SAD is called “phase shifting.” It’s accomplished by setting your internal clock a bit earlier. Not only will this give you more hours of daylight, but you can start your day underneath a bright light and set the tone for how you feel.
Try lightbox therapy first thing in the morning to boost your mood, or simply eat your breakfast under a bright light for 30 minutes. Phase shifting is an effective way to increase the light in your life and ward off symptoms of this disorder. If you start doing it now, it will be a habit by the time the truly cold and dark months roll around.
Get Outside as Often as Possible
Whenever you see a glimpse of sunshine outside, make an effort to go out. Even if you can only spare five minutes of time, soaking up those rays (even on a chilly day) can make a big difference.
Keep in mind that the sun doesn’t just “go away” in the winter. You might be tempted to stay indoors as much as possible. But, there are still some bright and sunny days. Take advantage of them; you might be surprised by how much of a boost they give you.
Establish a Fitness Routine
Most people understand the physical benefits of exercise. But, it’s a great way to manage your mental health as well.
If you already regularly exercise, it might be time to try something new in your routine or work out a bit longer each day. Exercise is a natural mood booster. It’s especially beneficial if you can get in a workout in nature. But, even heading to a gym can boost your serotonin levels and fight off feelings of anxiety or depression.
If you don’t currently get a lot of exercise, consider starting a routine now. Getting 30 minutes of physical activity each day will improve your mood, even when the weather outside is frightful.
Talk to Someone
When you’ve experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder in the past, you know how much it can negatively impact your life throughout the winter.
It doesn’t have to be that way this year. If you’re concerned about dealing with an onset of SAD, consider seeking out professional help now.
Therapy can help you to develop different skills and techniques that will get you through the season, including things like EFT tapping. Talking about the things that might be triggering your SAD can also help. Getting to the root of the issue might be difficult to handle at the moment, but it’s the best way to better understand the right kind of treatment.
If you’re prone to experiencing SAD, feel free to contact us before darkness starts to set in this year. Together, we’ll work on preparedness and how to get through the season without feeling helpless and hopeless.