The bleak sky, the harsh cold, the barren trees—it’s easy to see why so many people experience seasonal depression during the winter after the jovial atmosphere of the holidays has passed. This can be especially hard on mothers as they juggle their responsibilities, especially since many now feel trapped within their homes with nowhere to go and kids to care for. To help you preserve your mental health, here are some home improvements that help with seasonal depression.
Adding a Fresh Coat of Paint
Variety is the spice of life, and seeing the same thing every single day can be demoralizing. Color has a surprisingly powerful effect on our mood, so to give yourself a small project and to uplift the atmosphere of your home, why not give it a fresh coat of paint? Try something warm and bright to inject energy into the room or a nice green to invoke feelings of nature and harmony.
Starting an Indoor Garden
Speaking of invoking nature, starting an indoor garden is not only one of the home improvements that help with seasonal depression but also a soothing hobby you can do with your kids. Being able to see your hard work grow into something so aesthetically pleasing will uplift your mood by filling you with a sense of pride and accomplishment. With an indoor garden, you also have complete control over the conditions of your garden, such as providing the right soil or installing the optimal light. This requires some extra effort, but it provides a bigger payoff as you grow some truly bountiful plants.
Finding Your Zen with Exercise
Exercise is recommended for healthier living, both physically and emotionally. When it’s still too cold to go out and exercise and the quarantine prevents you from going to public gyms, you can use a spare room or basement as your own little home gym space. Exercises such as yoga give you a chance to stretch and focus inward on yourself. If you want a more intense workout, cardio such as jogging on a treadmill is great for losing weight. Whatever exercise you decide on, your body will feel more limber and energized, which will in turn improve your mood and confidence.
Your home never has to feel like a prison. Take control of your surroundings, and give yourself a project that will not only fend off seasonal depression but also give you something on which to focus as we wait out this quarantine and the dreadful winter weather.
Christina Duron is a writer living in the Chicagoland area. Her passion for writing and mental health help create thought provoking and engaging pieces and hopes to use them to empower mothers and women to embrace the beauty of motherhood.
It can be tough to find the motivation for self care in the winter.
It’s in our nature to want to hibernate under the covers all winter long and avoid leaving the house. But staying isolated and failing to take proper care of ourselves during the winter months can lead to bouts of seasonal depression. Self care is important year round, so despite the miserable weather, we should always try to make time for it.
Here are a few ideas for self care in the winter that are sure to keep you feeling warm and cozy.
1. Light a Fire in the Fireplace
There’s no better way to warm up in the winter than sitting by the fireplace. You can read, write, listen to music, watch your favorite movie or even just sit quietly and enjoy the crackling sound of the flames. Flickering light is said to have a meditative effect on the mind which helps to reduce stress. In some parts of the world, firelight is essential to the practice of hygge during the winter.
2. Relax by Candlelight
In the same way, dancing candlelight can help you relax as well. Stock up on candles over the winter and light them whenever you get the chance. Light a few in the kitchen while you’re cooking or dine by candlelight. Keep one on your bedside table while you relax in bed or beside the tub while you soak. Just remember not to fall asleep while they’re lit or leave them unattended, of course.
3. Curl Up With a Cozy Blanket
Self care in the winter is all about wrapping yourself in warm, cozy blankets. You may have several blankets in every room that you use, or maybe you have a favorite one that you practically live in. The soft touch of a blanket wrapped around us helps us to feel safe and secure. Being warm is also better for our blood circulation and improves our overall mood.
4. Take a Hot Bath or Shower
Soaking in a hot bath or standing under a hot shower is a great way to warm up in the winter. Try adding Epsom salts to the bath water for an added dose of magnesium. Or throw in a few shower steamers filled with essential oils. If you find that you prefer hot showers more frequently in the winter, make sure to use all natural products that will keep your hair and skin soft and moisturized without overloading on chemicals.
5. Visit a Thermal Spa
If you haven’t already, check out a thermal spa in your area. They are great places to visit in the colder months because you can access the full range of hot and cold. Natural, mineral hot springs have healing waters that not only warm you up, but can provide relief from muscle and joint pains.
6. Get a Hot Stone Massage
Obviously any kind of massage therapy is a great way to practice self care in the winter. But if you’re not a fan of deep tissue massage, try opting for a hot stone massage instead. The warm volcanic rocks strategically placed on your body can loosen up tight muscles and reduce inflammation, stress and tension. P.S. don’t forget to put SpaFinder gift cards on your wish list to use for this!
7. Warm Up Your Feet
You can warm up your entire body simply by starting with the feet. Warm feet will help you sleep better but if you’re not comfortable wearing socks to bed, try plugging in a heated mattress pad or blanket just at the foot of your bed. Invest in a pair of ultra cozy socks or slippers to wear in the winter. For added benefits, roll some essential oil blends onto the soles of your feet before slipping them into socks to absorb all the goodness.
8. Sip Some Herbal Tea
Don’t forget to keep warm from the inside too! Sipping on herbal tea is a great self care activity to do daily. There are many health benefits of drinking green tea or just plain hot water with lemon. But you can find herbal teas for almost any ailment these days. There’s a reason why it’s such an integral part of any ancient culture.
9. Visit a Steam Room
Many gyms or indoor pools give you access to a steam room so definitely take advantage of them in the winter. Steam is a great way to detoxify the body, clean out the pores and help boost our immune systems. It’s especially helpful to loosen things up when you’re suffering from a stuffy nose or chest congestion. Just make sure to have a good shower and don’t forget to exfoliate and moisturize afterwards to get rid of all the toxins you’ve just sweat out.
10. Go for a Run
Staying active is one of the most important self care practices in the winter. It’s all too easy to neglect our bodies when they’re always covered up. So bundle up and go for a run around the neighborhood. You might start off feeling cold, but the longer you go, the warmer you’ll get. Or run indoors on a treadmill. It’s important to get your heart rate up at least once a day, which will improve your blood circulation to keep you warm all over.
11. Do Some Yoga Stretches
Meditative yoga is another great form of self care in the winter. Despite it’s slow and concentrated movements, you will work up quite a sweat holding those positions. Stretching daily will help our bones and muscles from getting weak over the winter months, when we might not as be as active.
12. Spend Time in a Sauna
Similar to steam rooms, saunas can be found at most gyms, indoor pool areas or spas. The dry heat of a sauna focuses directly on helping you sweat out toxins in your body. You can even find places that offer hot yoga, which is a yoga class done entirely in a sauna for added benefits. Search SpaFinder to see locations near you that offer these specific type of services.
13. Bake Something Warm and Delicious
Baking is a great winter activity, especially around the holidays. But don’t do it out of necessity or you’ll just stress yourself out. Bake just for the fun of it. Having a warm oven on will heat up the whole house and the delicious smells coming from it are an entirely different form of aromatherapy. And then go ahead and indulge. Use the real chocolate and the full fat cream and don’t skimp on the sprinkles.
14. Make a Pot of Soup
Nothing warms you up faster in the winter than a delicious bowl of hot soup. Soup days are perfect and easy for those dreary days when you’re stuck in the house. Or have a pot ready to go for when you get in from being outside in the cold all day. Try making a bone broth from scratch or get the kids to help you make an easy veggie soup. Soup is a winter time staple but also light and healthy.
15. Knit a Scarf
The winter months are a great time to start a new project. With all the extra time spent indoors, you’ll need something to keep you occupied or you’ll end up with a bad case of cabin fever. Knitting a scarf, hat or mittens for yourself, your kids or a loved one is a great place to start. Or work on some other form of art therapy. Creating something will give you a sense of pride and boost your confidence. Depending on how good your skills are, you can even give some away as handmade Christmas presents.
16. Cuddle With Someone You Love
Finally, the best way to stay warm this winter is to spend lots of time cuddled up with the ones you love. Whether you’re suffering from a mental illness like postpartum depression or just a case of the winter blues, nothing heals better than a hug. You’ll stay warm simply by sharing body heat, and you’ll get a mood boost from spending time with others. So this winter, if you plan to hibernate indoors, make sure you’ve got someone to spend it with and find ways to take care of yourself while still keeping warm.
There are several reasons why the holidays aren’t as enjoyable when you have postpartum depression.
In order to get through the holidays with postpartum depression, most women wear a smile for the sake of their families. After all, celebrating the holidays with our children are some of the happiest memories we’ll ever make. But it’s also one of the most stressful times, especially for mothers. They tend to take the lead when it comes to cooking, cleaning, shopping, decorating and wrapping gifts.
If the thought of getting through the holidays with postpartum depression is already stressing you out, check out some of our tips for making it through unharmed.
Start Planning in Advance
The holidays have a way of sneaking up on you. It’s as though you’ve just begun to cope with sending the kids back to school and then suddenly, there are Christmas carols playing on the radio. Feeling the pressure of time running out can have a big impact on our mental health. The best way to avoid the added stress of last minute shopping and decorating is to start planning for the holidays well in advance.
Get your calendar and write out all the important dates. Mark down family dinners, holiday parties, school or work functions, vacation time and anything else happening over the holidays. Once you know these dates, you can start planning meals, gifts, outfits, babysitters, etc. Keep your calendar in sight, even if it’s still a month or two away so that you can mentally prepare for what’s coming up.
Start your holiday shopping early. You always say that you’re going to be one of those people that starts shopping early but end up leaving it until the last minute anyway. Make a list of everyone you need to shop for and carry it around with you whenever you go out. You never know when you’ll stumble across something great. Check out online sales or discount sites like Zulily and sign up for e-mail lists at your favorite stores.
Having a head start is one way to survive the holidays with postpartum depression. Making lists and planning in advance can reduce the amount of stress, sleepless nights and anxiety.
Minimize the Holiday Traditions
Special family traditions around the holidays are what makes this time of the year so memorable. When you think back to holidays as a kid, what were some things that you remember doing every year? Was it waiting up for Santa, baking cookies with grandma or watching a favorite movie? These days, there are so many different traditions that you can start with your kids (especially on Pinterest).
But be careful which traditions you choose to start with your family and don’t try to adopt them all. If you’re not much of a chef, then skip the holiday baking. Or if crafting isn’t your thing, maybe buy a special ornament each year instead of trying to make one. And take it from me, the Elf on the Shelf will use up way too much of your time and energy. (But if you must follow through on this one, here are some adorable ideas using your home security camera!)
Consider sending virtual Christmas cards this year. Buying cards, signing them all and mailing them out can be time consuming and not something a mother with postpartum depression wants to do. But sending a paperless card is both easy and good for the environment. Paperless Post has a huge selection of beautiful holiday cards and invitations, plus you can store all your contact’s e-mail addresses for next year!
If you plan to survive the holidays with postpartum depression, it will mean downsizing the festivities a bit until your symptoms are under control. Having one or two special things that you do together over the holidays is more than enough to make it memorable. Besides, your children would much rather spend time laughing together as a family, than do a bunch of baking and crafts with a stressed out mom.
Set Aside Some “Me” Time
We can’t forget about self care during the holidays. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the spirit of giving that we forget about taking care of ourselves. If you want to make it through the holidays with postpartum depression, you need to take a break every once in a while.
With all the holiday events coming up, book yourself a salon day and get your hair and nails done. If it’s something you splurge on once a year, now is the time to do it. And don’t forget to put a massage or spa day on your wish list. Winter is also a great time to try out a thermotherapy spa.
With the change in seasons, many mothers with postpartum depression can get hit hard with the winter blues (a.k.a seasonal affective disorder). This makes self care even more important during these colder, shorter days. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep and exposure to sunlight to avoid falling deeper into a depressed state.
Find a Socializing Buddy
As much as you don’t want to do it, socializing is good for you. You may be dreading having to answer the annoying questions that everyone asks new moms, like “is the baby sleeping through the night” or “shouldn’t he be walking yet?” And the thought of having everyone fawning over your baby might be unbearable, even if they are family.
If you truly want to survive socializing over the holidays with postpartum depression, then what you need is a wing-man (or woman). Find your person, the one who is going to help you out through all the holiday socializing. It could be your spouse, sibling, a favorite cousin or friend. It should be someone that you trust and have a great connection with. Tell them what you are going through and ask them to help you out at family functions. If they notice someone annoying you, they can swoop in and save you.
You should never have to battle postpartum depression alone but that doesn’t mean you need to announce your condition at the dinner table. Having just one person who understands how hard this is for you can make it so much easier. And who knows, maybe you’ll even enjoy yourself!
Don’t Avoid the Fun
Celebrating the holidays with postpartum depression is no fun. But that doesn’t mean you should hide away or avoid the festivities. You might think that your presence will just bring everyone down or make others feel awkward and so you decline invitations or leave the party early.
Even if you don’t think you’re much fun, I assure you that others are glad you’re there. Your children, especially, are happier when you are there. So be in the pictures, sit around the fire and join in the dinner conversations, even if you have nothing to say. It’s hard to remember all the days when our kids are young. But you’ll remember the holidays, and so will they.
Moms can never seem to relax without feeling guilty about it, so maybe it’s time we took a lesson from the Danish.
The Danish people are a happy people, despite the fact that their weather is very similar to that of my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (a.k.a. Winter-peg). How do the Danes manage to remain so happy despite the long hours of darkness and extreme cold temperatures, while we’re all miserably suffering from seasonal depression over here?
I believe that it has a little something to do with their lifestyle. Specifically, the hygge lifestyle. Learning more about the hygge lifestyle and incorporating it into our own lives can have a lot of benefits, especially for busy moms. It’s not just something that we can practice on the coldest of winter days, but something that we should be mindful of everyday.
Most importantly, embracing a hygge lifestyle can help moms to feel a little less guilty about slowing down and taking care of themselves.
What is Hygge?
Hygge(HOO-ga or HUE-ga) is a Danish word that does not have an exact translation in English. It is used to describe a particular mood or feeling but also to describe the many different ways a person can create this mood and feeling. And that mood and feeling is one of happiness, contentment, peace and warmth.
Hygge is a certain way of living life. It’s about being conscious of your every action and movement. It’s moving slowly and never feeling rushed or pressured to be anywhere or do anything. To live a hygge lifestyle is to focus on the things that make us feel happy and warm on the inside, despite the cold darkness and chaos that’s happening around us.
Similar to creating a self-care sanctuary, it’s important to surround yourself in the proper environment for practicing hygge. While hygge is most popular in the winter months when it’s cold and dreary, it can actually be practiced year round. All you need to create the perfect hygge environment are the right tools.
Candlelight is a cornerstone of hygge culture. The soft, low lighting and irregular flickering of a candle is something that artificial lighting just can’t re-create. Sitting around by candlelight in the winter is sure to inspire a feeling of coziness, warmth and togetherness, maybe even romance. You can even take the mood lighting up a notch by plugging in a color changing diffuser filled with some relaxing essential oils.
Being wrapped up in a blanket provides us with a sense of warmth and security. It’s like channeling the spirit of ancient Vikings wrapped in bear skins as we huddle by the fire. You may not have a spare bear skin lying around but a soft sherpa throw or weighted blanket can do the job.
A Quiet Sitting Place
A comfortable place to hang out is definitely a hygge essential. Whether it’s a couch, bed, comfy chair or cushions on the floor – you’ll want to make sure it’s your favorite place to spend some time. Maybe you already have a designated self-care space, or maybe you have to move some furniture around, but find that one perfect spot in your home that you can escape to.
Comfortable Clothing & Wooly Socks
I’m talking about that one pair of sweatpants that you would never wear out in public. They’re soft and warm and worn in (or worn out). Perhaps the waistband is stretched out or there’s a hole in the crotch from where your thighs rub together, but it doesn’t matter because they are the comfiest pants in the world. Comfort doesn’t always have to mean sacrificing style, either. And socks, you have to get the warmest, coziest socks you can find. Warm feet are the quickest way to feel cozy!
Indulgent Foods & Hot Drinks
Another essential part of the hygge lifestyle is the indulgent, soul warming soups and stews, rich cakes and hot drinks like apple cider, hot chocolate or herbal teas. Normally, these are things saved only for special occasions, which is what makes them so indulgent. Eating foods that remind us of holidays or our childhood can boost our moods as we reminisce on happy times. And don’t worry about the calories, because we’ll need all that extra fat to keep us warm in the winter!
A Hygge Weekend
Adopting a hygge lifestyle everyday is not a practical solution for everyone. But scheduling a hygge weekend can be a great way to practice self care and unwind after a busy week. This is also an activity that can be done with the entire family, with benefits for everyone. So choose a weekend where you don’t have anything else going on and schedule it!
Next, make preparations ahead of time so that you don’t need to worry about a thing:
Stock up on candles and matches. (Or firewood if you have a wood burning fireplace!)
Get the ingredients to make a hearty beef stew, indulgent cake and soul warming drinks like coffee, tea, warm cocoa or hot apple cider.
When the weekend comes, get your Hygge on!
Stay in bed for as long as possible.
Wear your comfiest clothing, slip on cozy socks or slippers and wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
Light some candles or a fire in the fireplace.
And then… do whatever makes you happy. Play board games with the family, watch a movie, read a book or take a nap.
Don’t worry about phone calls, to-do lists, housework, or even check the clock.
Use up your cheat days and eat a hearty meal, load up on carbs and indulge in cake and coffee while sitting around the dinner table laughing with your family.
Remember, you’re not being lazy or unproductive – you are embracing the art of hygge. Doing all these things is good for the soul!
The Benefits of Hygge
Hygge encourages us to live with intention and focus on what’s important. Resting our bodies, spending time with loved ones and indulging are all important. Among all of the things that “need to be done” like laundry and dishes and cooking and cleaning, we should remember that these things are just as important.
Often, when we take time for ourselves, lounge around in sweatpants or eat cake – we feel a sense of guilt. As if we should be doing something else more productive. But choosing to live a hygge lifestyle gives us permission to do all of those things.
And while we can’t eat cake and wear sweatpants everyday of our lives, we can remember to move a little slower and take in every moment of every day. We can choose to do the things that make us happiest and instead of feeling guilty, we can feel proud.This is the hygge lifestyle.
Our mental health struggles evolve with the seasons.
Throughout the year, our mental health will go through a series of highs and lows. Whether you’ve been struggling with seasonal affective disorder, depression, anxiety or another mental illness, you may find that it’s worse at different times throughout the year. In order to improve your mental health, you must consider all the different factors that each season brings.
Here are some ways that you can improve your mental health this year, broken down by months.
The first step to improve your mental health throughout the entire year is to start with a plan. You only have to plan out as much or as little of your year as you’re comfortable with. The simplest way to do this is with a calendar of the full year. You can choose a large desk calendar, a smaller personal calendar, an agenda or a bullet journal.
Start by filling in all your important dates. Write down everyone’s birthdays, anniversaries, work schedules and appointments. If you have a vacation coming up this summer, write it on the calendar in great big bold letters! Don’t forget to schedule in your self-care time!
Then, make a list of goals you hope to achieve and put the dates you want to reach them on your calendar. Think outside the box when it comes to your goals, don’t be afraid to celebrate the small wins. For example, if insomnia is a problem for you, then set a goal to get one straight week of decent sleep. Keep your calendar somewhere you can see it every single day, and don’t forget to update it each month with new tasks and goals.
Having a plan in place, with attainable goals, will help you feel more organized and confident and ultimately improve your mental health.
Finally, the last of the winter months! Take some time this month to embrace the cold weather before it’s gone and enjoy all things warm and cozy. The Scandinavians refer to this practice as “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah).
The cold and darkness of the winter months can have a strong effect on our mental health, especially if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder. But knowing that spring is right around the corner can bring a glimmer of hope and actually improve our mental health.
So celebrate the end of winter by getting in one last fire in the fireplace, drink all the hot cocoa and stay in bed as long as you want.
It’s time for some spring cleaning! But I’m not talking about dishes and laundry and other everyday tasks. One of the best ways to improve your mental health is to get rid of all the junk piling up in your living space. Decluttering your environment is a great way to declutter your mind as well.
Take a few tips from Marie Kondo and organize your spaces. Clean out your closets, drawers and cupboards. Get rid of anything that doesn’t have a purpose or bring you joy. Sort through your paperwork and try to go digital wherever possible.
You don’t need to go full minimalist, but having clean, organized spaces can do wonders for your overall mental health.
With the arrival of spring, it’s the perfect time to try out your green thumb. Gardening is a form of ecotherapy that can help to improve your mental health. Escaping to your garden can be a form of self care, and there are many indoor plants that offer great health benefits.
Gardening is also an activity you can opt to do with the kids. Not only do they love playing in the dirt, but they can learn so much about the environment and where food comes from. If you have picky eaters, they’ll be more likely to eat vegetables that they’ve watched grow in their garden.
Plant some seeds this month and you’ll have something to occupy your mind all summer. Watching your seedlings grow will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment that will boost your mood and self confidence.
Warm weather is just around the corner, so it’s time to pamper that dry winter skin. Our skin and sense of touch has a big impact on our mental health. That’s why we can feel so overwhelmed and frazzled when we’ve been over-touched all day by our kids.
For months, our skin has been exposed to harsh temperatures, covered up and neglected. It’s time to book a spa day or massage and facial or even just plan some DIY pampering at home. Try out a new summer hairstyle, get a pedicure before breaking out the flip flops and switch to a lighter makeup routine for summer.
Focusing on your outward appearance can boost your confidence and improve your mental health.
Finally, the world is bright and green again. Spend as much time outdoors as possible this month. Your body has been deprived of Vitamin D, sunshine and fresh air for months, so get as much of it in as possible.
Go for a walk, run, hike or bike ride. Outdoor activities often feel less like exercise than going to the gym, and exercise is so important for maintaining your mental health.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to get your bikini body ready, either. Hang up a hammock, dust off your patio chairs or lie right on the grass and relax, completely guilt free. Even having your lunch or morning coffee outside will do wonders to improve your mental health.
You made it through the winter so sit back and enjoy the warmth and sunshine while you can.
Do you remember summer vacation as a kid? If you have fond memories of summer camp, beach days, camping trips or playing from sun up to sun down, then embrace that and be a kid again this month.
Plan some camping trips or beach days. Swim as often as you can, no matter what you look like in your bathing suit. Head to the splash parks and let loose. Take up a new sport that you’ve always to try. Channel your inner child and just have some good old-fashioned summer fun. Don’t forget to take a ton of pictures and maybe even put it together in an album to look at each year.
When you’re battling a mental illness, it’s probably been a long time since you had any real fun. Remembering a happy time from your childhood can help to improve your mental health in the simplest way.
This month, it’s time to focus on something that’s so important for our mental health, but often neglected. Our support system A.K.A. our friends. It’s not unusual to withdraw from society while battling a mental illness but what we don’t realize at the time is how important it is to have a strong support system around us. So focus on those friends this month.
Host a backyard BBQ or plan a group camping trip. Only invite the people you want to spend time with and don’t feel obligated to invite anyone who brings negativity into your life. If you’re not ready to be that social yet, then aim for a night out with a couple friends that you’ve been meaning to connect with.
Get out of your comfort zone a little bit this month, dust off your social skills and strengthen your social circle.
Back to school season means that everyone is learning something new, so why shouldn’t you? September is a great month to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill.
Think of something that you’ve always wanted to do. You could start making sushi, learn calligraphy or take a photography class. The possibilities are truly endless. Check Pinterest, a local hobby store or your bucket list for more inspiration.
Distracting the mind with learning something new can improve your mental health by working your brain in a different way. Doing something artistic, such as painting, is a great way of expressing any bottled up emotions you may be harboring. And choosing something physical, like a new sport, can help to burn off any pent up energy.
Our minds love a challenge, so put your brain to work this month.
Just like that, the warmer weather is coming to an end. This can bring a sense of doom and gloom, even if you don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder. The thought of winter coming back again, plus the added stress of the holidays can have a severe effect on anyone’s mental health.
It’s a way to remind yourself that you are in control of your own happiness.
Prioritizing yourself doesn’t make you a selfish person. You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. With the holiday season coming up, your focus is going to shift to your family and friends and making the holidays memorable.
The most expensive part of the year is upon us. Now is a good time to have a look at your bills and budget and meet with a financial advisor. Fellow mom and Winnipeger, Sandi Huynen, knows what it’s like. Check out her website for more information.
This can be a stressful month for many different reasons: the financial strain, the stress of Christmas shopping, the long list of events, and anyone who has lost a loved one will miss them especially around the holidays.
One of the best ways to improve your mental health this month is to scale things down. There is a lot of pressure, especially on mothers, to make Christmas memorable. Mostly because, when we look back at our happiest memories – they are at Christmastime and we want that for our children as well.
But it’s not about the size of the tree or the gifts. It’s not about how many crafts or activities or advent calendars there are. The things we remember most about the holidays is getting together with everyone.
If you want to improve your mental health, scale back the holiday decorations and festivities and focus more on enjoying time with family.
It’s natural to feel like hibernating when cold weather comes along, but it can also be a symptom of something more complex.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called SAD, Seasonal Depression or the Winter Blues, can affect anyone during the winter months (and rarely, even in the summer). It’s a type of depression that is triggered by the change of the seasons and everything that comes with it. The lack of daylight, time change, colder weather, and the increased amount of time spent indoors can all make a person feel depressed.
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and seek treatment for them. Whether you suffer from another type of depression already or this is the only time you experience depressive symptoms, don’t ignore it or brush it off as something minor. Putting up with it for a few months may be a good enough treatment for a while, but depression can be unpredictable. Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, and while it might sound extreme, seasonal affective disorder can fall into that category.
Here are seven different ways that you can treat seasonal affective disorder this winter.
1. Exposure to Light
The most common treatment for seasonal affective disorder is light therapy. Since winter is associated with a reduced amount of daylight, it’s believed that this alone can cause seasonal affective disorder in otherwise healthy people. It also explains why it’s more common in those who live farthest away from the equator.
Regular exposure to bright light is a great way to help ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. You can purchase one specifically designed for light therapy such as this pyramid shaped one, or this compact travel sized one. But you don’t need to purchase a special light to reap the benefits of light therapy. You can simply keep more lights on in the house and switch to LED daylight bulbs instead.
One symptom of seasonal affective disorder is a craving for carbohydrates and sugary, sweet foods which often results in weight gain. But choosing the right foods can actually help treat seasonal depression. Complex carbs such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables and beans will still satisfy the craving without the added sugar.
You should also try to eat several foods that contain tryptophan, which can increase serotonin levels. These include foods such as turkey, eggs, salmon, nuts and pineapple. You can also opt for a synthetic tryptophan supplement such as 5-HTP or L-Tryptophan.
Coffee is something that many people, myself included, depend on to get us through each day. But too much caffeine can actually stop our bodies from producing enough serotonin. So while a cup a day is acceptable, try to avoid relying on it too much.
If you’re struggling to eat right, then consider adding an all-natural supplement into your daily routine. Making a simple change to your overall nutrition can work wonders for your mood and energy levels.
The use of essential oils and aromatherapy is a popular one for treating depression including seasonal affective disorder. Our sense of smell has a powerful effect on our brains. By using the right combinations of scents, we can feel happier and healthier with very little effort.
You can find blends that make you feel energized, relaxed, and reduce tension and stress for a clearer mind. You can even splurge on an entire set of different scents so that you can choose a different one each day.
Aromatherapy can also help to treat symptoms of insomnia, which can reduce the production of serotonin. By incorporating essential oils into your everyday self-care routine, you can help keep symptoms of seasonal affective disorder under control.
4. Take A Vacation
For many regular sufferers of seasonal affective disorder, a winter vacation is an annual tradition. Having something to look forward to in the winter can help to ease depressive symptoms. Make sure to choose a location closer to the equator, so that you’re guaranteed plenty of sunshine.
But you don’t have to go somewhere hot and sunny to help treat seasonal affective disorder.A spa vacation is another way to beat the winter blues. You can find a spa close to home and still experience a get-away. Relaxing at a spa and getting massaged and pampered can give you the boost you need to make it through the winter. Check out Spa Finder for some awesome spa packages!
The only downside to a vacation is that it doesn’t last forever. The idea of coming back to the dreary winter after a vacation can cause seasonal affective disorder to hit an all time high. So make the most of your time away, take plenty of pictures and soak in enough sunshine to get you through to the spring.
5. Get Physical Indoors
In the summer time, we’re almost always outdoors doing something. But in winter, it becomes much more of a chore and can even be dangerous to spend an extended period of time outside. This sudden drop in our activity levels and the lack of fresh air can contribute to seasonal affective disorder.
Put some extra effort into getting physical indoors. You can join a gym or sign up for fitness classes. Swim laps at a local indoor pool or simply walk around the mall. Try out a dance class or start taking yoga. There are several things that you can do indoors when the weather isn’t great outside, it just takes a little bit more effort.
Being more (or just as) physical during the winter months as you are in the summer can help eliminate that sudden mood drop when the seasons change. Plus, exercise is a great way to boost endorphin levels, which is an important mood booster!
6. Practice Hygge
Hygge, pronounced ‘HOO-gah’ is a Danish way of life that’s recently become popular in Western culture. It basically refers to anything that makes you feel cozy and comfortable. It’s a simple concept that you’ve probably done before without even realizing. The Danish people have incorporated it into all aspects of their lifestyle and make it a priority, especially in the cooler months.
The nice thing about hygge is that there is no exact science to it. The main goal is to find things that make you feel comfortable, warm and happy and make them a priority in your life. Imagine sitting by a warm fire, cuddled up in a soft blanket with a hot cup of tea. That’s hygge. Or what about binge-watching Netflix and eating popcorn in your pajamas with your best friend? Also hygge.
Making time to practice hygge during the cold, winter months could drastically boost your mood and actually give you something to look forward to.
Cognitive behavior therapy and anti-depressant medications are available specifically to treat seasonal affective disorder. You can find a therapist online to help you get through this winter and all the future ones.
It’s never too late to start seeking help for seasonal affective disorder. If you realize that this happens to you every year, then be proactive at the end of the summer and take steps to prepare for the grey months ahead.
Treating seasonal affective disorder can feel like we’re fighting our very nature. Like bears who sense the call to hibernate, we stock up on snacks, crawl into bed and dream of sleeping until the snow melts. But if we did that, we’d miss out on a lot of life. Don’t let seasonal affective disorder keep you from enjoying life, especially around the holidays.