Temperatures are low, stress over what to buy friends and family for the holidays is overwhelming, days are too short, and the pretty Christmas tree in the living room or the joyful music on the radio is not helping brighten your mood.
If this happens to you around the same time every year when seasons change, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Doctors usually identify it after two years in a row of experiencing intense feelings of anxiety, melancholy, tiredness, depression, lethargy.
“The usual criteria for diagnosing SAD are when [people] meet the criteria for clinical depression during winter for several years running and recover in the summer,” according to Jenny Scott-Thompson from the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA) in the U.K.
About half a million people in the U.S. are affected between September and April, peaking in December, January and February. Three out of four patients are women.
Effective treatment doesn’t have to involve medication. “Investigate different treatment options - most people need a combination of light treatment, talking therapy and lifestyle changes,” Scott-Thompson says.
“You can't stop having SAD,” she adds. “You can avoid seeing any symptoms by moving nearer to the equator.” But in case you can’t do that, here are several simple ways that can be useful in dealing with the condition of having “winter blues.”
1. Get outside in the mornings
You need natural light to start your day on a high note. Set aside some 30-40 minutes to be out in the open when the sun is out. “It definitely helps - a morning walk gives you a daylight boost as well as some exercise,” Scott-Thompson, who experiences SAD, as does every member of the organization, says. If you can’t, walk outside in the early afternoons and the day is usually brightest. Sit next to a window when you you’re inside.
2. Make your home brighter
A recent study has indicated that natural light in the office boosts health. Just sub “office” for “home.” Open the blinds or curtains; remove anything that stands in the way of natural light getting into your home. Clean the windows to get rid of the dirt that may have accrued over the months. You may want to paint the walls in lighter colors. They reflect more sunlight, making the room brighter. Additional benefit is lower electricity bills because the room will need less artificial lighting.