No doubt about it, the cold weather and time change bring on all sorts of different moods and feelings for me. The days are shorter, the sun sets quicker than it rises, and the temperatures are far from ideal, making my desire to be one with the outside pretty much nonexistent. And on top of all of this, the pandemic adds an extra layer of sadness and irritability to seasonal blues.
When it’s dark by the time you’re wrapping up your workday, it can become quite challenging to find the motivation to manage a regular weekday routine and keep up with your normal hobbies. It’s tough to stay productive when the weather is dreary and sunlight is at a bare minimum, causing irregular levels of serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine in the brain. I’ve definitely been struggling from this the last couple of weeks! Going into this year’s winter season, I wanted to share a few ways I’m preparing myself for coping with the dwindling daylight hours and feeling down.
1. Create a morning routine
Oversleeping is a common symptom of SAD, as our circadian rhythm can become out of sync and increased levels of melatonin are formed. While hibernation may be tempting, waking up a little bit earlier can make the short days feel longer. Try adjusting your sleeping patterns to allow for maximum daylight — that means getting up earlier and going to bed earlier. And make sure you’re getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep per day. I don’t know about you, but my motivation and productivity for the day goes completely out of the window once the sun begins setting at 5pm. So it’s critical that I optimize my days where I’m intending to get things done. Fill your mornings with all things devoted to your self-care, this can even be as simple as replacing screen time with more you time.
2. Add some brightness to your space
Because one of the reasons for the blues is lack of sunlight and exposure to it, adding anything to brighten your home and work space might be beneficial. Open the blinds as soon as you wake, move those curtains out of the way, add plants and other green goodness, place an additional lamp or two in the rooms you occupy the most. If you’re working from home, you might even find it helpful to rearrange your home office so that you can be as close to a window as possible.
3. Get to moving
As you might’ve heard a thousand times or more, exercise is truly a key component in boosting your mood (blah). Find movement you love and commit to an exercise schedule. If you’re like me and are not a huge fan of intense workouts, carve out some time each day to do a deep stretch.
4. Lean into a creative hobby
Channel your inner child and do more things that you enjoy — random dancing, adult coloring, painting, writing, learning a new instrument. Get as creative as you possibly can.
5. Take a daily dose of Vitamin D
There have been studies linking consumption of vitamin D to a reduction in SAD symptoms, as this is typically a result of lack of sunlight. Talk to your doctor about having your Vitamin D levels tested to find out if you are deficient. The supplement can also be found at your local grocery or health food store. You can even set a recurring reminder in your phone, so you don’t forget to take it daily!
6. Try your best to welcome the good things that the cold seasons bring
Take a page out of the Norwegian book to handle the winter blues: jazz up your house and make it as cozy as possible. Bring out your candles, warm blankets, snuggly sweaters, and stock the pantry with hot beverage packets. Embrace all the wonderful things that fall & winter are known for. Celebrate your favorite parts. Before you know it, spring will be making her grand entrance.