For those who live in temperate climates, you may be very familiar with the “winter blues”—the change in mood that comes with a sudden change in weather.
However, there’s a difference between a case of the winter blues and clinical seasonal depression.
According to the DSM-5 (the official manual of mental disorders), seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D) is a form of major depression with a clear seasonal pattern. Most often, it onsets during fall and recedes by spring. It is characterized by symptoms such as intense feelings of sadness, loss of pleasure, fatigue, and weight or appetite changes and requires a diagnosis by a qualified healthcare professional. You can contact your general practitioner for help if these symptoms resonate with you.
If, however, the cold weather and darker months put a noticeable but somewhat manageable damper on your mood (a.k.a “the winter blues”), there are a few things you can try to help alleviate this burden:
Winter is— duh— darker and colder. As a result, we can’t absorb as much sunlight as we did in the summer months when the days were longer and warmer.
Since sunlight helps regulate our circadian rhythms, getting less often leaves us feeling fatigued. Our bodies also produce less serotonin (the neurotransmitter which modulates mood) and more melatonin (the hormone which makes you sleepy).1
Even just a little bit of sunlight a day can help counteract this. However, having lived in the mountains, I know even five minutes outside may be impossible when it’s below-freezing and mid-blizzard. In this case, light therapy, which mimics outdoor light by providing 10,000 lux of light, may be a viable alternative to cause a positive chemical change in the brain.
Less sunlight may also mean less Vitamin D; much of our daily Vitamin D intake comes directly from sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to feelings of sadness or depression, as well as fatigue, muscle weakness, and bone loss. As a result, consider taking a Vitamin D3 or D3 + K2 supplement to replenish your stores.
Unfortunately, the winter blues coincide with flu season— which can mean, if you’re not careful, double the fatigue and double the misery.
There are, however, ways to proactively fend off potential illness by building up your immune system. In addition to staying active and maintaining a healthy diet, supplements such as Vitamin C, Astaxanthin, Black Cumin Seed Oil, and Elderberry Complex have immune-boosting properties that may help you through these precarious winter months.
Sometimes, cold weather can provide mental or physical barriers to making plans with loved ones. However, a strong support system is vital for combatting sadness or loneliness, regardless of the season.
If braving the icy roads or planning around dark evenings to meet with a pal is too overwhelming, schedule a phone call or video chat instead.
Not only will it boost your mood, but it will likely boost the mood of the caller on the other end. After all, the winter blues don’t discriminate and can impact anyone.
Thankfully, implementing any of these strategies can help you cope with it and thrive regardless of the temperature outside.
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