Seasonal Affective Disorder: Common Struggles and How to Solve Them

Other months might have 31 days, but it’s universally agreed upon that January is the longest one of the year. After weeks of holiday festivities and vacation time, getting back into the work or school routine takes extra effort. Shorter days and dark mornings make waking up early and getting moving, in general, really difficult for people of all ages. There’s also the matter of the weather: the winter blues misery most of the country experiences can cause seasonal affective disorder (aka SAD, the most appropriate acronym ever).

We’ll give you the good news first: January has *finally* come to a close, which puts us one month closer to spring. The not-as-good news: February is notorious for bringing along gnarly weather, prolonging – and even intensifying – the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. If gray days, early sunsets, and frigid temps are getting you down, consult our guide for assuaging some of the symptoms of SAD.

Trouble sleeping

Our team is particularly familiar with this symptom, so we know the urge to take a midday nap is real. Unfortunately, experts recommend avoiding that since it can throw off our sleep schedules even more. We like this piece of expert advice more: get bright light first thing in the morning. Since it’s not always possible to get the natural stuff, try a light therapy lamp, which can really help boost your mood as well. When it’s finally time for bed, keep your bedroom cool and consider getting a humidifier to make your sleep space as comfortable as possible.

Not enough movement

It’s hard enough to get up for work when it’s dark out, so voluntarily rolling out of your warm bed to work out may not be particularly appealing. The same goes for after-work exercise, as a 4:30pm sunset isn’t motivating either. We’re all for resting, but daily movement is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, especially if you’re suffering from SAD symptoms. Take a cue from the Scandinavians and “think of the snow as a source of light.” As long as it’s safe to do so, get your dose of vitamin D by going on a walk, hike, or bike ride. If you’re a morning or evening runner, make sure to wear bright clothes, warm-enough gear, and the right footwear for your terrain. No matter what activity you choose, be sure to hydrate just as much as you would during warmer months. And if you need another incentive to get moving, remember that exercise can help improve your sleep.

General meh

Even if your sleep hygiene and physical health are in good shape, winter can still bring you down. Basically, we just need to be entertained and/or distracted until the spring has sprung.

Here are some activities our team likes to mindfully pass the time during this seemingly endless season.

  • Cook comforting dishes with in-season produce from your local store or farmer’s market (this helps avoid overeating less-healthy comfort foods that make us feel even more meh later)
  • Create a cozy environment where you feel good. Little things like seasonal candles, heated blankets, or a fresh new sweat set can make us feel happier. More on that here.
  • Make plans. Bust out the Excel sheet and plan your next vacation, wrangle your neighbors for a weekly game night, or schedule a video call with a far-away friend.

Seasonal depression is very real and affects more people than you might think. If reading this made you wonder, “do I have that?,” The National Institute of Mental Health might have the answer; check out common SAD symptoms here. If you’re feeling more than just SAD symptoms, speak to a therapist or ask your doctor if medication might help. We’ll be here keeping warm if you need us.