Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a serious type of depression related to changes in the seasons. It affects an estimated 10 million Americans, more commonly women.
Fortunately for us here in Austin, our “winter” months are laden with 70-degree days, a plethora of outdoor, winter-themed activities, and much more to keep us occupied.
Those that live in negative-degree weather for up to five months out of the year, however, are not as fortunate. It’s extremely important to actively keep yourself busy to avoid slipping into this state of winter depression. Dr. Allison Chase offers several, natural ways to treat seasonal depression.
1. Eat a well-balanced diet
Eating nutritious food, believe it or not, can have a positive impact on our mental health. It’s easy to resort to comfort foods during the winter and load up on carbs, but maintaining a well-balanced diet can boost your energy and improve your mood
. Make sure you don’t skip meals to make up for holiday weight gain – this can lead to anxiety and disordered eating.
2. Stay active
If all you want to do is curl up by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa during the winter, you’re not alone. However, make sure you are still regularly exercising. Exercising raises your serotonin and endorphin levels. There are plenty of ways to break a sweat indoors. (We recommend that those in eating disorder treatment or in recovery check with their healthcare professionals before starting a new exercise program
3. Be spontaneous
Find a friend willing to try something new with you and commit to this throughout the winter. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to sew or join a cooking class. Spontaneous, new activities will give you something to look forward to on those long, dark winter days.
4. Don’t isolate yourself
It’s important to stay positive and maintain human interaction. Isolating oneself can lead to intensified feelings of depression. Even if you just visit the mall and people watch, get out and immerse yourself in the outside world.
5. Seek professional help
If your seasonal depression gets to be something you cannot control, seek professional help. Even just one or two counseling sessions can make a tremendous difference. There is no shame in speaking with someone who is professionally trained to deal with these circumstances. Seasonal affective disorder is a common form of depression that can be greatly controlled with the right help.
Allison Chase, PhD, CEDS is Regional Managing Clinical Director of Eating Recovery Center, Austin, Texas.