Does fall fill you with dread, knowing winter follows on its heels? If this is you, you’re not alone and you might suffer from S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Commonly referred to as the “winter blues”, the Anxiety Association of America (ADAA) reports it affects 15 million adults or 7.1% of the U.S. population.
Firstly, if you’re feeling really bad, you might want to visit your health care provider for a physical exam to rule out underlying physical health problems. To prevent and treat these symptoms yourself, try the following 6 techniques to boost your energy and help you find your light in the darkness.
- Lighten up – Get yourself an SAD lamp and place it eye level for 20 minutes – two hours, preferably in the morning, for at least two weeks. Studies have shown that morning light therapy is more effective than evening exposure and that your SAD lamp should have visible light of at least 2500-10,000 lux For more information, see The National Library of Medicine, “Treatment of seasonal affective disorders”.
- Get out – Decreased access to sunlight in fall and winter, causes a drop in vitamin D. When Vitamin D can’t do its serotonin (a naturally occurring “happiness chemical”) promoting job, our bodies have a tough time regulating our mood as well as our sleep, appetite, digestion, ability to learn, remember and focus. Getting your morning walk in can do wonders for your energy level, happiness and concentration.
- Go to bed! – Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep when possible. Our bodies are craving hibernation in these darker, colder days. Give them what they want! You don’t have to be up with the dawn, but see if you can go to bed, and wake earlier, to optimize the sunlight. Studies have shown that keeping a gratitude journal before bedtime is a great way to help you get to sleep, which leads us to…
- Write it down – Process journaling helps you to unload the stressors of the day, reflect on, and honor the feelings that emerge. Keeping a gratitude journal helps rewire your nervous system, by orienting your mind to all that is working in your life. Try a dream journal to plumb the misty depths of your unconscious for clues. Sometimes with SAD, our minds feel blank, like an “out to lunch” sign’s stuck on our foreheads. That’s a great time to use a guided journal like Journaling for Non-Journalers, which is a guided journal and a fully illustrated introduction to the wide world of journaling. Journaling is an active form of meditation for busy minds. It channels, seemingly out of nowhere, our fully formed thoughts and feelings, which, when we’re overwhelmed, flash into conscious awareness, before fading just as quickly away, often leaving us unable to come up with answer when someone says, “How are you?”
- Be present, be kind – Doing a kindness for someone can be as easy as giving them our full attention. When you’re with others, put away all distractions (I’m looking at you, smartphone!) and listen. Fall and winter can trigger grief in all of us, and we never truly know what others may be struggling with. Helping others is one of the best ways to amp-up our happiness quotient – a pure win-win.
- Feed your energy – Fill the tank – Here are a few final favorite ways to fill one’s energy coffers in fall and winter: laugh (with others if possible), receive Reiki, or a massage, eat lots of a hearty veggie soups, play/get creative, make a motivational playlist and hit play when you need help with your get up and go and snuggle with your favorite furry friend.
Finally, if you lack the motivation to help yourself, or these tips and techniques fail to make a dent in the darkness, reach out to a mental health professional. A psychotherapist can gently help get to the root of your condition and create a treatment regimen tailored to your unique needs.