If there was ever going to be a good time to do away with Daylight Savings, this may have been the year. No extra hour of sleep can be worth giving up all that sunlight. It happens every year, yet most of us are completely blindsided the first week as we struggle to get through the evening hours, both physically and mentally. If you’re feeling a bit more sluggish or down lately, you are not alone. Every year, millions of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And this year, mental health experts worry that since the pandemic has already caused a spike in depressive symptoms in Americans, more cases of seasonal depression will occur this winter.
The good news, it’s never too late to implement a plan to battle the gloom during the cold winter months. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself moving and motivated when the clock strikes 4:30pm (besides Starbucks!). If you feel, or already have felt, that your depression may worsen or start up during the winter months, here are some ideas to keep your outlook bright, even when it’s dark outside.
Many people who suffer from seasonal depression tend to avoid social interaction. Resist the urge to isolate yourself. Now, more than ever, it is SO important to stay connected with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Just think about how many people are feeling the same way as you! Try and make it a daily goal to reach out to at least THREE people after 4:30pm. Call, text, FaceTime, Zoom. Find ways to make new connections or find an online community that offers support. Consider taking advantage of things like online therapy. Teletherapy is making support more accessible and affordable, and since it is done from the comfort of your own home many people feel it’s less intimidating.
Don’t mind the chilly temps? Meet on the porch with a neighbor, invite a friend to walk with you and your dog, bundle up the kids and make it a fun walk with flashlights or glow sticks, sit out back with hot chocolate (if you have ample outdoor lighting, if not – great investment!), get a fire pit going and read a few chapters in a book. There are ways to enjoy the outdoors (dressed properly of course) and while it amounts to less time outside than the summer months, it will prove to be a great benefit for your mentality. (*Health Tip: Consider taking a daily Vitamin D3 supplement which is proven to promote bone health and immunity support. Most people are deficient in this Vitamin to begin with – which helps your body absorb calcium – and in the winter we lack this vitamin even more due to the less sun exposure).
Stick to a schedule
Having a schedule that you’re familiar with will help alleviate some of the changes you may be feeling due to the shorter days (and that thing called a pandemic). Now may be a good time to add in healthy habits such as meditation or light exercise. Having a set bedtime and wake up time is also helpful for your circadian rhythm – the 24-hour cycle that’s basically our body’s internal clock. Don’t forget to schedule in breaks for fresh air, healthy snacks and to just recharge.
Limit negative news
Avoid getting trapped in the 24-hour news cycle. For background noise, choose music (Sirius CHILL) or a podcast instead. There are so many positive ways to substitute the news. Audiobooks, podcasts, even a lighthearted movie or show will brighten your spirits and decrease the doom and gloom feeling. If you want to take that extra step, remove the news apps from your phone and click unfollow on social media.
Do what you love (or try something new!)
Spice things up a bit! Now is a great time to buy that air fryer and try some new recipes. If cooking isn’t your thing, grab some new books or magazine subscriptions. If you’ve always wanted to try scrapbooking or fitness videos, why not try now? Ironically, most people say the days feel LONGER not shorter, so think about how you can fill up the dark hours with things that are fresh and interesting, but also simple.
If you need help or someone to talk to, we’re always here. Visit www.longislandteletherapy.com for more info or to set up an appointment.