Winter is coming. For most in the northern hemisphere, the thought of the winter season brings joy. They look forward to "sweater weather," feasts, and holidays. But for me, it's like a smudge on the calendar.
Summer is my season. I try to soak up as much sunlight as I can and make the most out of the long, glorious days. Even though autumn is nice, once the days shorten I can feel the sadness creep up.
When Halloween passes, I usually feel like I'm just waiting until the first signs of spring at the end of March. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect 1 to 10 percent of the population and is four times more likely to affect women than men.
It can be a very difficult time of year, but there are some changes I can make to hopefully alleviate my symptoms!
It can be difficult to keep up a good exercise routine during this season. I can't just go hiking like I do in the summer because it's dark before I get off work and it's very cold. I remember attending some outdoor workout sessions last year and freezing my butt off.
But exercise is important to help keep my body and mind strong. I have a gym membership with access to an indoor pool and sauna, so I hope to spend lots of evenings here this season.
Find your favorite way to exercise and a way to adapt it in the colder weather.
2. Make plans on nice days
Where I live, there's occasionally a warm day where the temperatures reach above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. These days always feel like a break in the storm, so I plan on keeping an eye on the weekly forecast. If there's a nice day, I will do my best to get outside for part of the day to sit in the sun and enjoy the warmth.
3. Take a Vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D supplements can have a variety of health benefits beyond just combating the "winter blues."
4. Eat healthy and nourishing foods
It can be really tempting to eat more while I'm indoors. There's also so many holidays and events during this time of year and it can be hard not to eat during a family or social event. I want to make sure I continue to eat foods that are good for me and sustaining.
5. Clean my living space
It's really easy to become stagnant. Reorganizing and cleaning my living space is an important thing to do during this time of year. I don't want to allow my home to fall into disarray and it's a good time to take advantage of the extra time indoors.
6. Devote some time to my hobbies
I enjoy painting, writing, photography, and reading, but I don't always have time for it. I'd like to find ways to fit these interests into my week so hopefully I can take my mind off my negative feelings. Being creative is also a good way to keep my energy up. For Halloween, I love to make DIY costumes and decorations.
7. Spend time with friends and family
For me, it can be hard to connect with others during this time of year. I feel so melancholy and getting together can cause lots of stress. But your family or friends can be your biggest support system and can help keep you afloat. Find the people who really fill your cup and spend some time with them or talk to them. Find things you enjoy doing together and do it!
8. Make like a bird and head south
In January, my boyfriend and I took a random trip to Orlando, Florida, to visit a friend and go to Universal Studios. It was a fun couple of days and although the weather there wasn't super warm that week, we still had a great time at the park and with our friends.
It may not always be an option, but if you have the chance to escape to a warmer, sunnier climate to break up the monotony of winter, do it!
9. Find alternative ways to celebrate the holidays
Now, if you actually love the winter holidays, go ahead and be merry!
For me personally, the winter holidays don't bring much joy. I find the expectations and crowds stressful.
So one year, I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in Disney World with my boyfriend and best friend, and it's still one of my favorite memories to look back on.
Since we don't actually celebrate Christmas at my house, we spent last Christmas Eve visiting other people's homes: we had appetizers and played video games at my dad's house, we had a Chilean dinner at my best friend's house, and then we went and played party games and had tamales at a family friend's house.
If you're like me and the holidays are stressful or just don't match up with your beliefs — don't feel obligated to participate fully. Do things that are fun for you and your loved ones.
10. Fill my calendar with things to look forward to
This is the most important part for me. The winter season can feel like a long, dark tunnel. It's like I can see the light at the end of it, but I'm cold and miserable trying to trudge through it.
Adding events, like a concert, to my calendar helps me have things to look forward to.