When the sunlight levels go down, especially during fall and winter, it may cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD, also known as winter depression, comes and goes with seasonal patterns and is caused by a drop in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or a brain chemical that affects your mood. SAD symptoms are more severe and apparent during winter.
SAD is characterized by a loss of interest in everyday activities, irritability, feeling of guilt and despair, difficulty concentrating, and a persistent low mood. While the condition is linked to reduced exposure to sunlight, the exact cause of the seasonal affective disorder is yet to be established.
Like managing stress, controlling SAD can help lower the risks of other conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, depression, or heart disease. Therefore, you can prevent or manage SAD through the following tips.
1. Spend Time Outside
Winter is that time of the year when the sun sets early, and the weather keeps getting colder and colder. Before the weather takes a toll on you and sends you struggling to partake in your daily duties, having low energy, and feeling irritable, consider stepping out and getting active. During winter, the outside feels cold, gray, and dull. However, exposure to daylight can boost your mood.
Get outside and exercise, as even 15 minutes of a moderate workout can still boost your energy levels to keep you active all season long. If you cannot get outside, consider the many options for home workouts. Browse through videos to follow or find an online workout class to join. Exercising daily is one of the most effective ways to keep your mind and body strong throughout winter.
2. Healthy Eating
Maintaining a healthy diet is an excellent way to boost your mood. Diets full of processed foods and refined sugars have been linked to disorders such as depression that worsen your spirits. Forget about all the holiday leftover foods and desserts. Fill up your home with healthy vegetables, fruits, and proteins, but allow yourself to have occasional indulgence.
Back up healthy eating with a good night’s sleep, as inadequate sleep can also worsen your mood. Lack of sleep is also associated with an increased risk of depression and other mental health conditions. Good sleep can improve your emotional and mental resilience. Adopt a good sleep routine where you wake up and go to bed on a consistent schedule. Avoid watching TV before bed and eliminate electronics from your bedroom as much as possible.
Practicing mindfulness can be a great way to help you stay focused. Start practicing meditation for 10 minutes per day and watch yourself become a better person each day that passes. Meditate every morning or minutes before bed to help you start your day calmly and clear your mind of all kinds of stress.
Suppose it’s your first time practicing meditation, do a little research by watching guided meditation videos, podcasts, or apps. Please note that meditation is not a formal practice, so be free and don’t stress out about specific ways to do it. Taking part in activities such as yoga, listening to your favorite music, or taking a quiet walk can be extremely helpful as it keeps you mindful even with the cold temperatures.
4. Meet People
Studies show that maintaining social interactions and having people to support you are crucial in helping you reduce the adverse effects of mental health symptoms. Schedule regular video chats with the people you love if you cannot keep physical and social interactions. Reach out to friends and family through email or phone, or plan for some extra fun virtual activities like a movie screening or virtual trivia sessions, among other events.
While all the above tips can help you manage stress during winter, knowing when you need professional help is crucial. If your stress leads to a problem involving drug or substance abuse, it’s important to start your online search for help. Start with drug rehab services in Miami, Florida, as they have a variety of services to help you beat addiction and stress.
Clues That it’s Time to up Your Stress Management Efforts
During winter, stress is a shared experience. Therefore, it is essential to identify the tell-tale signs of whether you are going through healthy stress every day or your stress system is working too hard.
The first sign to trigger you to action is experiencing difficulty sleeping or if you feel tired throughout the working hours of the day regardless of how much sleep you received the night prior. Other symptoms include muscle tension, problems paying attention, and anxiety, among others. If you notice your stress levels rising, consider the various treatments available like lifestyle measures, light therapy, talking therapies, and using antidepressant medicine prescribed by your doctor.