If you’ve been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you may feel panic set in as fall turns to winter. It is one thing to know that you have the disorder, but it is quite another thing to cope with it. If you are dreading the long winter months because you aren’t sure how to manage your SAD, check out our coping strategies and see which you think will benefit you most.
Because doctors and scientists believe that the drastic reduction in sunshine in fall and winter are partially to blame for seasonal affective disorder, they recommend that you take advantage of natural light as much as possible. While it would be nice if you could sneak away to a tropical destination during the winter, it’s not very likely that you can, so you need to make a few changes around the house to help yourself get as much light as possible.
First, change the curtains or drapes around your home. If you must have window coverings for privacy, choose those that are sheer and still allow light into your home while giving you some security. Swap out room-darkening blinds in your bedroom for light-filtering blinds so that you get more light as you awake. As soon as you get out of bed, open your blinds and push back drapes to get as much exposure to natural light in the morning as possible.
If your home is cluttered, you won’t get as much natural light in winter as you could be. Declutter, organize, and make sure not to block windows in any way. Ensure your windows are clean in order to allow light to enter your home (make sure that if you use a housekeeper, they understand the importance of this). You should also make sure that vegetation outside is not blocking sunlight from making its way inside.
While it may be tempting to hibernate during the winter, don’t allow yourself to sit or lie around. You will feel worse and put your mental and physical health at risk. Instead, find ways to stay active at home. Make your bed every morning. Organize your home and donate unwanted items to get some pleasure out of helping others. Keep up with dirty dishes and laundry. Cook healthy meals.
It’s also a good idea to stay active by exercising to help you cope with your seasonal affective disorder. Exercising helps all forms of depression because it improves the mood and reduces stress. One hour of aerobic exercise outside, even if it is cloudy, offers the same benefits of 2.5 hours of indoor light treatment for those with SAD. Try walking briskly, going for a run, skiing, taking the kids sledding, or having a snowball fight to exercise away SAD this winter.
Looking for a great way to stay active in the Winter months? Come to Launch Trampoline park and burn up some of that energy!
Sometimes, the best way to work through the symptoms of SAD is to release them in healthy, positive ways. For some people, that means keeping a journal about their feelings and working through them on paper. For others, it means writing a poem or a letter to themselves or someone else. Artistic people find that creating drawings, sculptures, or other art forms is therapeutic and results in some stunning pieces. Still others find that playing music, writing songs, or singing helps them cope with their seasonal affective disorder.
If you don’t have the skills to get creative to express your feelings in positive ways, seek out an art therapist or music therapist in your area. If these services are unavailable in your area, find an art class or music class at a nearby community center or institution of higher learning. Some artists and musicians give private lessons if you would prefer to learn on an individual basis rather than as part of a group.
No matter which coping strategy seems right for you, the key is to pursue a strategy that you think you can adopt as part of your daily or weekly routine so that you are taking charge of your mental health and facing your seasonal affective disorder head on this winter season.