When you live with seasonal depression, self-care steps — such as getting outside in nature and prioritizing sleep — can help improve your symptoms and boost your mood.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called the winter blues or seasonal depression, tends to get worse during the winter month but can also occur from spring to summer.
While living with seasonal affective disorder is challenging, there are several steps you can take to help ease your symptoms.
But seasonal affective disorder looks different in each person, so not every strategy will work for everyone.
Try not to give up if one strategy doesn’t work. It may take some trial and error to find the self-care strategy that works best for you and your unique needs.
When you have SAD, it can interfere with your sleep health. You might sleep too much or too little, making yourself feel worse.
An unhealthy sleep schedule can also disrupt how long you spend in the sunlight each day.
Try sleeping for 8 hours at a time, going to sleep and waking on schedule. Sleeping in too late can increase melatonin levels — the hormone responsible for maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle. This can contribute to feelings of depression.
Staying on schedule can give you more energy and help balance your mood.
Stress management is one of the best self-care strategies when you have a seasonal affective disorder. Some beneficial stress management techniques include:
- avoid overcommitting yourself
- put off decisions until you feel better
- mindfulness and meditation
- participating in things you enjoy that allow you to relax
When you live with depression, doing simple things such as getting dressed in the morning or taking a shower can seem challenging. Consider establishing a routine for self-care to help manage this feeling.
Try to keep a consistent schedule for self-care habits, even when you don’t feel like it.
So, try to get outside and embrace the world around you, basking in the beauty of the environment. You can go for a walk or sit quietly outside, as long as you take a moment to breathe in the fresh air.
When you’re experiencing symptoms of depression such as sadness or lack of energy, you might look to comfort foods as a quick pick-me-up. You may want to grab your favorite bag of chips or chocolate bar to boost your mood and energy.
But sugary snacks may make your symptoms worse instead of better.
SAD occurs more often in the winter because you get less natural sunlight. So, try to get some sun whenever you can.
You don’t have to go outside to embrace the sunshine. You can open your blinds to let natural light flow into your space. Consider working, reading, or doing your other tasks near a window early in the day even if it’s winter and cold outside.
After waking up, try to increase your exposure to daylight even if the sun isn’t out.
It’s not uncommon to want to isolate yourself when feeling depressed, but self-isolating can worsen feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
Consider finding ways to spend time with loved ones. Connecting with others can help you feel less alone and give you a sense of belonging.
Finding trusted and supportive people to spend time with can help you feel better and remind you that you are loved and people care about you. You can talk about your feelings or just laugh about old times.
Physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mood.
Any form of physical activity will be helpful, whether that’s a structured workout or just a walk around the block.
Some exercises you can try include:
- jogging or running
Try to keep track of your mood, including when you felt a certain way and what you were doing at the time.
You can write this down in a journal, a calendar, or an app. Note when your feelings began and what triggered them. This strategy helps you identify patterns, allowing you to learn to manage them in the future.
Writing about your feelings can also help you find relief as you work through them immediately.
Consider also noting the strategies that have helped during those times. You can look back on what helped when these symptoms creep back in later.
Living with seasonal affective disorder isn’t easy, but self-care strategies can help ease symptoms, boost energy, and improve mood.
Try to incorporate these strategies into your daily life to help maintain your mood and and improve your well-being.
If you live with SAD, try to focus on what you can do to feel better such as prioritizing your self-care, keeping a sleep schedule, and increasing your exposure to daylight.
Keep in mind that these strategies aren’t to be used instead of treatments.
If you notice that your feelings of depression occur around certain times of the year or you’ve already been diagnosed with this condition, consider seeking support from a mental health professional.
They can work with you to develop a treatment plan that suits your needs. This may include therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes.