Warmed up in our blankets. Sipping hot coffee. Soaking in the winter sun. Feeling the cold breeze. Christmas bells. A new ray of hope. Aren't these just a few things that we associate with when we think about winters - a cosy, serene feeling?
While this is what the bright side of winter looks like there is also a different side. Winters also bring along longer nights, reduced sunlight, and disruption in the sleep cycle, along with a year coming to an end. It can easily become overwhelming around these months. Many people experience sadness, low energy, and a lack of productivity during this time of the year. In India, more than 10 million people experience these signs during winter. While most of them might be less severe in nature the ones who experience these signs in extremes can be diagnosed with what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year, mainly originating during the winter months and subsiding towards the beginning of spring or summer. The major cause of SAD is a lack of direct exposure to sunlight, which leads to chemical changes in the brain and disruption in the circadian rhythm, which aids in our sleep cycle.
Common Signs and Symptoms of SAD:
Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
Losing interest in activities you enjoyed
Low on energy and feeling sluggish
Having problems with sleeping too much
Carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
Having difficulty concentrating
Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Having thoughts of not wanting to live
How to Beat the Winter Blues or SAD?
1. Getting More Exercise
Exercising secretes the hormone serotonin (often referred to as the happy hormone), which enhances our mood, balances appetite, and helps regulate sleep. A daily dose of exercise would thus aid in fighting SAD symptoms.
2. Intentional Daily Exposure to Sunlight or Artificial Lights
As mentioned above, lack of sunlight during winter is the main cause of SAD. Sunlight regulates our circadian rhythm by secreting melatonin. High-beamed artificial lights can also be a good substitute in case of a lack of sunlight. Intentionally exposing yourself to sunlight or artificial lights (also known as phototherapy) can thus help in regulating our circadian rhythm.
3. Loading up on Feel-good Movies and Videos
Many times we might need a source of energy from the outside to lift up our spirits. A dose of laughter and smiles goes a long way to lift our mood and get a burst of energy. Keep your bundle of happiness ready to fight off the blues.
4. Maintaining a Proper Sleep Routine
A proper sleep routine is followed by making an effort to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This sets our biological clock in rhythm. A few things that can be taken care of when we talk about setting this routine in place are refraining from using screens an hour before bedtime, daylight sun exposure and clearing out your thoughts for a peaceful sleep.
5. Seeking Professional Help
Lastly, suppose you feel like your overall functioning is deteriorating and any of the above methods are not working. In that case, you should reach out to a therapist to seek professional help. They can help you better manage the signs by providing evidence-based approaches and using personalized methods to effectively help you through it. It’s never too late to reach out.
At MentAmigo we understand that it is not as cosy and serene for everyone as it might be for some people and therefore it is very important to provide a safe place for those who are experiencing and looking to beat the winter blues. We provide you with a judgement-free zone where you can freely express your emotions and ask for help and all of this from the comfort of your homes because we provide you with online therapy.