If you’re feeling a little blue this winter, you’re not alone. An estimated 10 million Americans experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) each winter, and this number will likely increase this year due to challenges brought on by the pandemic. Seasonal Affective Disorder comes and goes with the seasons – during the winter, the days are shorter, colder, and often wet and gray. There are many minor lifestyle changes and habits you can pick up to help beat the winter blues. Try these tips:
1. Create a routine and stick to it
Structure is always important for our mental health, and even more so during COVID. Wake up at the same time each morning, schedule meals, and have a consistent bedtime.
2. Stay connected
Good family and friends are a great buffer for stress, and can be an instant mood booster. Although we can’t be face-to-face right now, we can safely connect with one another through technology. Video chatting with family and friends on your Smart2 or other device is important to help you feel connected with others. Our mood improves when we have something to look forward to, so schedule a video call with your loved one so you all have something to look forward to.
3. Get plenty of Vitamin D
Vitamin D regulates your mood and helps ward off depression. The best source of Vitamin D is natural sunlight – open all the blinds in your house, take an early morning walk around your neighborhood (stay a safe distance from others), or rearrange your furniture so you are sitting near a window.
Focus on today instead of worrying about tomorrow. Try yoga, deep breathing, or meditation to stay mindful. Try downloading a free meditation app on your smartphone or Smart2 – a few free apps to try are Insight Timer, Smiling Mind, and Stop, Breathe, & Think.
5. Promote better sleep
Improve your sleep by having a consistent bedtime each night, sleeping in a cool, dark bedroom, and taking a bath, doing yoga or meditation, or having a hot tea before bedtime. Avoid stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and light-emitting screens before bedtime.
Laughter really is the best medicine. Make a point of laughing more this season by watching a comedy movie or show, reading a funny book (this list from NPR has a great list of humorous books), or ask Alexa to tell you a joke on your Amazon Echo or Lively Flip by saying “Alexa, tell me a joke”.
If you find yourself trying to lift your spirits but nothing seems to help, seek professional help. If you find yourself struggling with a case of the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder, know that you aren’t alone. This year presents new challenges for people with SAD as we spend more time practicing social distancing and caring for our health.