After the holidays come and go, taking their cheer and happiness with them, we're left without something to look forward to other than a potential warm breeze passing through bare branches after over four months' time. During that dastardly third of the year, many individuals suffer from something called SAD, which yes, does make you sad, but carries many other symptoms on its metaphorical back; these include but are not limited to low energy, oversleeping, overeating, craving carbohydrates, social withdrawal, feelings of sadness or apathy, crying spells, body aches, and depression symptoms (loss of interest in pleasurable activities, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness or guilt, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors). In short, SAD is just a whole bundle of fun.
If you're like me, you can identify with at least a few of these symptoms and not feel like a total failure. This is a verified disorder that typically affects individuals in colder climates whose seasons change drastically. Women are four times more likely than men to experience SAD -- in addition, those with other mental disorders, a family history of depression, and adolescents are reported to have more severe symptoms of SAD.
And coming from a person who A) is a woman B) is a young adult C) living through one of the most stressful periods of life D) has a family history of mental disorders and substance abuse & E) has PCOS, winter freaking BLOWS, and I'm sure many of you can relate hardcore.
So, what can we do to fight this beastly thing?
Experts say that much of treatment for SAD is similar to that of depression, which as we all know, is suuuuuuuuuuper effective. Yay for therapy, medication, and leaving the house to catch some sun -- no wait, it's literally -20 degrees and I haven't seen the sun in what feels like 5 years.
Rather than spending a fortune on a short depression cycle that will eventually fade once warmth re-enters your life, here are some tips on how to keep the symptoms of SAD at bay:
1. Eat Healthily
It may seem obvious, but many people forget that eating healthily regardless of the floofy sweaters that can be worn is essential. Stock up on leafy greens, and keep your protein intake high and carbohydrate intake low. That pasta may look good and make you happy now, but believe me when I say that it's likely to make you quite sad in the future.
2. Keep Moving
That bed may feel mighty-comfy but think of it as a softly-lined coffin of your SAD despair (this will make it more likely for you to get the heck out of there). Try to work out at least 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes each; this keeps your blood pumping and helps with lethargy. If you don't have access to the gym or don't want to go outside for a walk (I'm right there with you, believe me), just climb your nearest set of stairs until you can't breathe, take a 2 min break to do some crunches, and repeat until 20-25 minutes are up. That may not seem like a lot, but my calves are still killing me.
3. Take Some Supplements If You Want
You may be lacking some vital Vitamin D in your life (in fact, you're 1000% are), so taking some supplements may add a little hop to your step. Be sure to check with your doctor beforehand, but the best ones to take to combat SAD are Vitamin D (of course), Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Vitamin C or a Multivitamin. You can get most of these from your diet as well, but if you're insisting on not eating the stupid spinach, this may hit the spot.
4. Wash Your Freaking Hands
The only thing worse than having SAD is having SAD and being sick because then everything is 1000 times worse. Use antibacterial gel, clean your room often, and make sure you're not touching your face. You'll thank me in the long run.
5. Be Social
Again, the bed is comfy, I get it -- I'm literally in my own at this exact moment. With that being said, spending time with friends and family automatically boosts your mental health and makes you happier. If you don't really have anyone to hang out with, volunteering in your community will also give you those feel-good chemicals running through your brain.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Beds are for sleeping, not waking. Use your bed when you are planning to sleep and at no other point! This will help your brain associate that place with bedtime and will help you fall asleep faster and catch the right amount of Zzz's instead of either over or under sleeping.