A beginners guide to dealing with S.A.D.-ness this winter

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Graphic by Ellie Paty

Virginia Suardi

Every year as mid-fall starts to roll around, the giddiness I feel with the initial changing of seasons starts to wane, and I start to feel my SAD set in. SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as seasonal depression, and it occurs due to a disruption in our human circadian rhythm, or a chemical deficiency of serotonin and melatonin (two happiness-regulating hormones.) Though SAD is seasonal, people who suffer from it adopt the same symptoms of depression: isolation, exhaustion, and sadness. However hopeless struggling against it may feel, there are a few ways to make SAD a little easier to handle. Here are some habits I’ve picked up that have helped me through these past few winters.

 

  1. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. During the winter, our bodies produce less vitamin D because we’re absorbing less sunlight. I recommend taking daily supplements, which can be found at any drugstore, to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients. This also means getting a lot more sunshine than usual – try making an effort to sit near more windows, getting up earlier, and going on lots of walks.
  2. Work out! I’ll admit that during the colder seasons, it can be difficult to get yourself to break a sweat, especially during a pandemic when gyms and yoga studios aren’t open. Though they’ll never live up to in-person gyms, I love following workout videos in my basement (shoutout Chloe Ting!) but if that’s not your thing, you could also go on a run or a fast-paced walk to get your heart rate up. You don’t have to overdo it – even once or twice a week can help relieve anxiety and make you feel more upbeat. Even better, working out in the morning will really help wake your body out of those winter blues, especially if you follow it with a refreshing shower. 
  3. Try aromatherapy. Aromatherapy has been a helpful way of making the winter months less dull and devoid of sensation. I love picking out different scents: lavender, orange, bergamot, jasmine, lemon – and blending them in my diffuser, mixing them depending on my mood. You can also incorporate aromatherapy in your life through other methods: maybe picking a new fragrance, a scented body wash, or even a flower sachet.
  4. Start prioritizing your sleep. Being sleep deprived is one of the worst possible things you could do for your SAD, so it’s time to get serious about developing a schedule and sticking to it. Since people with SAD usually experience a drop in their melatonin production, I found that eating melatonin gummies makes me feel a lot sleepier and motivates me to get in bed faster (plus, they taste so good.) Finding something relaxing to do before bed can also help – I love to stretch, draw, and listen to ocean sounds before I fall asleep. 
  5. Retail therapy! Every winter, I fully drain my bank account to buy fuzzy socks and face masks, and it’s absolutely worth it. Kidding! But seriously, anything helps. Buying little things that make you happy can be a small but satisfying distraction from SAD, and those shopping endorphins can make the long winter a little more bearable. (I wasn’t kidding.)
  6. Don’t be so hard on yourself. SAD can be an exhausting disorder. If you’re feeling super antisocial and need a night off, stay in and watch a movie! If you’re feeling stressed out, take a mental health day. If you’re feeling sleepy, take a long nap. The most important thing to remember is to listen to your body, and to be there for yourself as much as possible. Journaling your feelings, meditating, or finding other creative outlets are other great ways to take care of your mental health.

 

Remember that sooner than you know it, the trees will start to bloom again, the days will get warmer and brighter, and life will be easier again. For now, prioritize yourself, your body, and your mind as much as possible. I promise you won’t regret it.