You feel a drastic decrease in energy, shift into a low mood, difficulty getting out of bed and slowness in movement, sounds like you? The Western medical industry calls this, “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD). It is important to be aware that during the colder months depression and suicide spike, especially for women of color.
If you are one of millions who experience SAD, don’t let anyone tell you it’s all in your head. It’s not – and we must meet it with compassion and understanding so that we might move through the darkness with self-love and the wisdom that nothing is wrong with us when we respond to what’s happening in our natural environment.
So here are seven things that we can do to support our winter sadness with understanding rather than pathologizing.
Exercising is a common prescription to ease depression. Moderate exercise like walking, running and yoga release endorphins and neurotransmitters to the brain. These chemicals can increase your mood and keep your immune system healthy.
2. Eliminate Refined Foods
Cut out sugar, flour, and other processed and white foods from your diet. Eating processed carbs increases serotonin, which you might find in short supply if you’re not getting enough natural light. Be aware that while this may give you an initial pick-me-up, the drop afterwards just isn’t worth it. Plus, these foods deplete vital vitamins and minerals that help the body handle stress and build immunity.
3. Create a Schedule
People suffering from SAD typically gain weight and can’t sleep during the winter months. Outline a schedule that enables you to wake up daily at the same time. Be consistent in your exposure to daylight and the times that you eat to help improve your mental outlook.
4. Update Your Playlist
Download new songs, so you don’t get tired of your workout mix. Research shows that listening to any music, period, will keep you on the treadmill or elliptical longer than going without. But when the tunes are “motivational”—lyrics you find personally inspiring—you will naturally spend more time exercising than if you are listening to music that doesn’t move you. The music will keep you upbeat and motivated!
Meditation is learning how to quiet your mind in the middle of chaos. It also helps you be intentional with how you react. Consistently practicing this form of focus balances seasonal depression by decreasing anxiety and enhancing overall well-being.
6. Take A Vacation
There are several benefits from taking vacation. Planning a trip creates day-by-day excitement and gives you something to look forward to. Choosing a warmer climate boosts your Vitamin D intake and provides an escape from the cold — both of which are guaranteed to lift your mood. And the residual effects of a vacation are great — you’ll notice that your lighter mood lingers even after you return home.
7. Speak with Your Doctor
SAD is a form of depression. The therapeutic ways to combat SAD don’t always work. If you can’t shake feelings of anxiety and sadness, find a mental health professional to guide you to treatment that is best for you.
Though cold weather is likely to have a lot of us wishing for spring, it’s important not to cast off SAD as an inevitable winter side effect. Taking action when symptoms hit could make the difference between a lonesome stretch and a happy winter season. Also check out Issue No. 9 as we debunk depression and mental illness myths and explore mental illness in women.
Radiant is a bi-annual print and digital health magazine dedicated to the discerning African woman and her journey to wellness through health, beauty and culture. Available at Barnes & Noble stores and other retailers (see stockists) and online. Ships worldwide. Subscribe to our newsletter and get a free digital copy of issue No.06.
Faith A. Coleman, MD