10 Ways to Ease Seasonal Depression

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Did you know there's a clinical term for seasonal depression during the cold-weather months? It's called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and it affects roughly 14%-26% of Americans in forms randing from mild to extreme. No matter how intense your SAD may be, there are practical ways to lower the intensity. You don't have to suffer silently for a third of the calendar year. From buying a new set of quality work scrubs to spending more time outside, consider these 10 ways to ease seasonal depression in your life.

1. Use a Light Box

During the fall and winter months, the days are typically much shorter. This also depends on the latitude of your location. When the nights are longer and filled with darkness, this can lead to seasonal depression. A lightbox is an excellent way to compensate for the lack of light and Vitamin D your body receives. Try to use a lightbox at a consistent time each day. Mental health professionals generally recommend using a lightbox for at least 30 minutes each day. When you wake up in the morning, you can use it as you're getting ready for the day or as you sit at a desk to work.

2. Develop a Good Sleep Routine

Sleep is vital to your overall well-being and health. When you're not well-rested, this will only exacerbate feelings of depression and sadness. Plus, you're more prone to make poor choices when you're tired (food, activities, etc.). Start by creating a cut-off time for energy-boosting beverages like coffee and energy drinks. Don't consume any caffeinated beverages after midday. Try to eliminate electronics after a certain hour of the evening as well. Put on the "Do Not Disturb" feature to help you avoid blue light stimulation. Add certain practices like a warm bath, a cool fan and cozy lighting to help you get in the mood to fall asleep and remain asleep until it's time to wake up.

3. Spend Time Outside

When it's cold outside, it's understandable to desire the cozy warmth indoors. However, you should fight the temptation to stay inside all day every day. Go outside to get some fresh air, even if it's just for 15 minutes. This practice can also help boost your serotonin, a chemical believed to impact happiness and sadness. Serotonin levels tend to go down during the colder months when seasonal depression spikes. By getting outside for some exercise, sunshine and fresh air, you'll help to offset the natural seasonal drop. Layer up in warm clothes, and wear protective gear for your extremities (hats, gloves, etc.). Go for a walk to keep your body moving. Wear headphones with energizing music to help you get in the mood to move.

4. Prepare Your Mind With a Self-Care Routine

During the fall, prepare yourself by creating a plan. Your plan should include some "indulgent" self-care activities that you enjoy. Try to complete one of your favorite activities each day. If you're a lover of pretty nails, make an appointment to get your nails done. If you work in a medical facility and need new work clothes, buy yourself some cute women's scrub tops or a cozy scrub jacket to make you feel better and confident when you're in the workplace. As you do an indulgent task for yourself each day, you'll have something sweet to look forward to.

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5. Connect With Loved Ones

Take some time to think of some of your favorite people to connect with. As life becomes busy, it's easy for time to pass without connecting with loved ones. When you're able to connect, this can boost your dopamine levels. Much like serotonin, dopamine levels tend to drop when you're suffering from seasonal depression. Whether you call a friend, meet up for coffee with a family member or snuggle with your beloved puppy, take time to connect with loved ones who make your heart happy. Connectedness is essential to happiness and joy.

6. Practice Tactical Techniques

It's not uncommon for depression and anxiety to be felt together. From a very tactile perspective, there are a few ways to decrease the anxiousness that's associated with seasonal depression. Learn to practice breathing methods like alternate nose breathing to help release stress in the parasympathetic nervous system. Take a cold shower or massage your face with an ice roller. Listen to some calming brown noise in your headphones for a few minutes. These tactical techniques help to provide comfort and relief when those emotions begin to overwhelm the system.

7. Incorporate Greenery

There's a loss of greenery during the fall and winter months. As the leaves fall and the flowers die, this takes a toll from a visual perspective as well. When you look outside and see nothing but a dreary sky and dirty snow, this can impact how you feel. Thankfully, you can create your own garden inside of your home. It's okay if you don't have a green thumb. This is your chance to cultivate one. Find low-maintenance indoor plants that can help your home look lusher. In addition to air quality improvement, research shows that caring for plants can help to decrease your level of psychological stress.

8. Exercise

Endorphins are popularly toted as the "feel-good" hormones because they give such a great rush of happiness and energy. One of the best ways to ease seasonal depression and get a rush of endorphins is through a consistent exercise routine. Get to a local gym to get around other people, strengthen your body and break a sweat. If you don't want to work out in the gym, find an exercise that can help you get your heart rate up and strengthen your body. Activities like jumping rope, walking and indoor swimming can be excellent.

9. See a Therapist

While you can notice certain signs and indicators of a mental health concern, seeing a psychotherapist helps to give clarity. Avoid self-diagnosis. A professional psychotherapist can help you work through your emotions, gain new tools to cope and develop a healthier relationship with your mental state.

10. Add Supplementation and/or Medication

Vitamin D supplements are a popular way to help alleviate symptoms associated with depression. Since it's dangerous to take too much of this vitamin, however, consider starting with a multivitamin that includes Vitamin D. If you're seeing a therapist, talk about how much Vitamin D to take. They might even suggest a blood test to gain clarity regarding what you need more of for your well-being. If you have a chemical imbalance that's affecting your SAD, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants. It's important to take anti-depressants as prescribed to experience the best results.

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Gradually work on incorporating these tips into your days. Don't overwhelm yourself with everything at once. Take your time, give yourself grace and remain intentionally committed to your healing journey. You don't have to dread the fall and winter months for the rest of your life. By using these 10 tips and more, you can find the light at the end of the tunnel.