Have you ever noticed that January is just kind of blah? Maybe it's the lull after the busy holiday season, or the cold, dreary weather that's got you feeling just not quite right. You aren't alone if you've noticed that you just don't feel like yourself lately. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is defined by the May Clinic as "a type of depression related to the change in seasons." The late fall and winter months are the most common time to feel the effects of SAD, with most finding January to be the worst. SAD can zap your energy, making you feel sluggish and exhausted, and kinda cranky.
Like several women in my family, I suffer from SAD. January is not a fun month for me. I gain weight, I lose sight of my goals, and I find it hard to do much of anything. The freezing cold weather makes me want to hibernate under the covers all day. I have no desire to leave the comfort of my couch, especially not to put on anything other than my fuzzy pajamas or go to the gym. By the end of January, I am going stir crazy from having no gumption to do anything.
Depression is more than just feeling sad. It's a chemical imbalance that effects how you think, feel, and go about your day. It's not something to just "get over and deal with." January is also a special month where many mental illness advocacy and awareness programs run campaigns to show their support and resources for those dealing with depression. Working to break the stigma, those who bring awareness to the commonality of depression show that you aren't crazy and there is a community of people here to help you.
Luckily, suffering from SAD isn't the end of the world. Here are eight tips for you to get through the winter and stay on top of your game:
I've found a nice sweat session is usually the perfect thing to get me back on track. Some days, I only have the energy (and spare time) to do a quick 20 minute run, and that's fine. The important part is that I got it in, and enjoyed it. The key for me is to do exercises that I love. Sometimes all I want to do is dance; its my happy place and an awesome stress reliever, on top of a workout. In that case, I check out The Fitness Marshall on YouTube (you need to do this, you'll get an ab workout laughing) or jump in a local barre or Zumba class. Other times, I want to put my earbuds in and just run. Find your happy place, and do it. Endorphins from exercise boost your mood, and knowing that you didn't skip out on your workout makes you feel pretty good, too.
2. Get outside
Vitamin D is the blues buster. If you're feeling gloomy, go outside. Take a 10 minute walk over lunch or after work. Take your pet for a walk (my dad walks my cats, so no excuses if you don't have a dog). Park farther from your office and enjoy the longer walk to get inside. If there's an ice storm outside, put your favorite chair by a window. Read a book in your window chair. As much as you'd like to close the blinds and shut out the world - DON'T. The sun is the best natural blues buster, and, hey, its not going anywhere soon.
3. Eat well
I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling not so hot, I reach for the worst possible things for my body? Comfort food is not really that comforting in the long run. I try to swap things out. Potatoes? Try sweet potatoes, as they have a lower glycemic index (without brown sugar and butter, obvi). Bread? I opt for rice cakes with nut butter and a little natural honey. I also sneak in veggies where ever I can. Leafy greens are your friends when you're feeling the winter time blues.
4. Do your gratitudes
If you aren't feeling your best, you probably aren't counting your blessings as much. Take a step back and take a look around. Do you have a roof over your head? 10 points! Food in your fridge? 10 points! There are so many things that we take for granted in life. Every evening before going to bed, take 10 minutes and list five things you're thankful for. Do this every day for a week, and you'll notice a change in your perspective.
I love me some essential oils. When I'm feeling down, I reach for citrus, lemon grass, or something upbeat. When I'm having trouble settling down for bed, lavender is my go to. Try implementing these useful tools into your daily habits.
6. Make a Schedule
If you're like me, when SAD really hits home, your schedule goes out the door. I rely on my schedule to keep me on track when I'm feeling down. Make a list of the things you need to do, in any order. Make it as detailed as you'd like, and include things you want to do. Then, take your list and start putting it into your schedule: 6am - wake up and take vitamins. 7am - make & eat healthy breakfast. 8am - listen to favorite song in the car to work. Make time for your list, and make time for you! Also, make sure to schedule in your sleep. A steady sleep schedule is a must!
7. Keep a journal
Blogging is my way of writing out my feelings. Keep a journal and write down your thoughts. Get it all out and off your shoulders.
8. Talk to someone
Sometimes, SAD isn't something that you can kick by doing the above things. They absolutely help, speaking from experience, but sometimes we must reach to others for help. Do not be afraid to speak to someone about your SAD. Everyone has a different journey. Talking to my doctor was a life changing moment, and I encourage you to do so if that is the best path for you.
January can be dull and dreary. Like Traci always says, your health is three parts - body, mind, soul. We must be kind to all parts of our being to find true and total wellness. We're all in this together!