Written By Trevor McDonald
The short, dark, and cloudy days can lead to the winter blues. Some people suffer from Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD), which occurs with a lack of Vitamin D. Others turn to dangerous comforts like binge drinking or eating. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to more serious depression and can lead to substance abuse, while not consuming nutritious foods can exacerbate feelings of guilt, alienation, and shame.
As we enter the darkest weeks, it’s time to take preventative steps before the winter blues arrive full force. Here are some of the most effective ways to beat the blues and ensure you prioritize self-care:
1. Make sure your Vitamin D levels are solid. Getting a full panel deficiency screening from the general physician every year is a great way to make sure you’re in good shape. The winter is a preferred time to do this since most people with Vitamin D deficiencies suffer the most during this season. If you are deficient (which is common in areas with little sun) there are many ways to increase your vitamin levels. You might benefit from a supplement, a sun lamp, or from eating more Vitamin D rich foods.
2. Get your sweet tooth under control. Too much sugar can lead to feelings of depression. It’s an addictive ingredient that some studies show is just as dangerous as alcohol and some drugs. Sugar gives you a high, and there is such a thing as a “sugar hangover.” If you’re craving something sweet, go with natural fruits that come with a healthy boost of vitamins and minerals. Avoid foods with added sugar, and steer clear of sugar substitutes. Sugar substitutes leave your brain craving the real deal instead of being satisfied.
3. Don’t skimp on your workouts. A good cardio session can do wonders for the winter blues by increasing endorphins. It might be a struggle to get to the gym or stick with your usual workouts when it’s dark and cold outside. However, after a few minutes, you’ll be glad to be into the groove. Use the winter to explore winter sports or indoor activities like a spin class, Zumba, or another type of heart rate raiser.
4. Prioritize getting social. Just like it’s easy to hold up at home and avoid workouts, the winter is also prime time to avoid social gatherings. Being around friends and family is a natural blues buster. Start saying yes to not just those holiday parties, but also get-togethers with those you care about for coffee, movies, outdoor hikes, or building a snowman. When you surround yourself with people you like, you’re less inclined to feel depressed.
5. Get into the spirit of the season. No matter what or how you celebrate, make the most of the season. For those of various faiths, ‘tis the season to indulge in healthy traditions (such as caroling). Start considering New Year’s resolutions with SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound).
Everyone can feel a little down when the weather is being dictated by Jack Frost. However, understanding what makes you feel depressed and actively finding healthy ways to combat it is the best way to tackle the winter months. If you feel like you need a little more help, working with a mental health expert can be a great way to battle the blues. It’s easier than ever with virtual sessions available.