How To Survive the Winter Blues

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We’re in the heart of winter here in New England — a time when it takes everything I have to show up to the day. In fact, it just dawned on my that I didn’t even send a letter to you last week!

While never officially diagnosed, I experience all the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) – bouts of depression, feeling tired most of the time, and preferring to isolate. And I’m certainly not the only one. There are more than 3 million cases of SAD in the United States alone.

SAD can make it difficult to drum up motivation, feel hopeful, or shake off fatigue. It makes for a looooong winter.

While there are many recommended tools to help, even using some of them takes effort! The few I’ve been using are phototherapy, journaling, upping my vitamin D, and talking with my therapist.

Phototherapy (or light therapy) has been found to be helpful for 50-80% of people with SAD. Using a light box for 30 minutes a day, ideally first thing in the morning, gives you similar benefits as sunlight.

While light boxes are not regulated or FDA-approved, the Center for Environmental Therapeutics offers some helpful guidelines on their website including the importance of 10,000 lux illumination, large screen size, and white light over “full spectrum.” You can read more about their recommendations here.

Even though my desktop light box could be bigger, I no doubt feel the effects of it as it shines in my periphery.

If you are considering purchasing a light box, talk to your doctor first. There are some cases in which light therapy may not be advisable, such as if you have bipolar disorder or certain eye conditions (glaucoma, etc).

Another tool I’m using regularly is my journal. I find writing down how shitty I feel really helps! 😊

Instead of working hard to ignore, suppress, or distract myself from my feelings, giving them a place to be expressed allows my body to relax and release tension. It feels like such a loving thing to do even if, at times, I’d rather deny feeling low.

Other helpful tools (which I’m personally resisting these days!) are moving your body and prioritizing social (safe) interaction. Being stationery and isolating certainly don’t help seasonal affective disorder, but neither does beating yourself up for what you’re not doing, amiright?

I share all of this in case you, too, are struggling right now. Know you are not alone, this will pass, and in the meantime, do your best to take care of your mental health by getting some support and trying out some of the tools mentioned above.

And remember, in less than one month, the sun will set around 7 PM!

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