5 Ways to Beat Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

5 Ways to Beat Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do you feel more down as the nights are getting longer and the days are becoming shorter?

It's amazing how the sun's effect on you is so powerful that less exposure to sunlight can drastically affect your mood. You may find that it's harder to get up in the morning with less bright sunlight shining into your window. Maybe you find it harder to relax at the end of your day as the darkness descends earlier each night. Struggles seem more challenging. Unmet expectations seem more devastating.

Feeling somewhat depressed as the seasons change and sunlight decreases is very normal. The impact ranges from slight mood swings to a temporary, full-blown depression known as seasonal affective disorder. You might consult a coach at Lisning.com to discuss your feelings and see what you can do for with your symptoms. Many people can combat these “winter blues” with these proactive strategies.

What can you do to improve your mindset and pick up your mood?

Here are a few steps you can take to keep yourself energized and positive:

1. Maximize light exposure

Try to get outside and into the sun as soon as possible daily. Walk instead of driving in a car to get to work or do errands. Open the curtains and sit basking in the sunlight, at work or at home. It may also help to turn on more indoor lights as soon as the sun sets.

Lisning.com coach Susan Benjaminsen (M.A., LMFT) specializes in releasing tension and overcoming "burnout". Find her here.

2. Watch your diet

Take care of yourself! Don’t let yourself binge on sugary foods and carbohydrates just because you are feeling down. Prepare healthy choices such as cut veggies and fruit to have in your fridge. That way, when you crave junk food, you will reach for a carrot stick instead of that chocolate chip cookie!

Lisning.com coach Monica Dolan-Strachan (LCSW, M.Ed, CPC) can help you set goals for a healthy lifestyle. Find her here.

3. Exercise regularly

Getting off your couch and moving your muscles benefits your mind as well as your body. Boosting oxygen to your brain helps you think more clearly and keeps you calm. Exercise also elevates serotonin levels in your brain that improve your mood. Can you believe exercise even releases endorphins that actually decrease pain? Walking or running outside is a great way to exercise and get sunlight exposure at the same time. Indoor exercise like dancing, workout classes and ellipticals can also get your heart pumping and increase your oxygen supply.

4. Stick to a sleep schedule.

Maintaining a set sleep schedule is very important for your state of mind. It also helps you wake up earlier so you can soak up the morning sun. Go to sleep around the same time each night and wake up at a specific time each day.

If you find it difficult to fall asleep, create a routine to help you relax at least one hour before you go to sleep. During this hour, avoid using your smartphone or looking at any device with blue light. Blue light exposure prevents your brain from releasing melatonin, the hormone that induces sleepiness. If you are having trouble falling asleep, reach for a melatonin pill or a good book instead of surfing on your phone.

Another trick to help your body feel sleepy is to indulge in a warm drink or a hot shower. Your body temperature drops right before you go to sleep. When you artificially raise your body temperature and then allow it to drop, it can make your head want to sink into your pillow. Be sure that your warm drink does not contain caffeine which can work against you falling asleep.

Lisning.com coach Nicole Belmonte (MA, MEd, LMFT) can help you if you are sleepless from relationship worries. Find her here.

5. Take Vitamin D

Vitamin D is extremely important for your physical and mental health. It is essential for absorbing calcium from the foods you eat. That is why vitamin D is often added to milk. Vitamin D has also been found to be associated with mood. People with vitamin D deficiency have been found to be more likely to suffer from depression. Taking vitamin D has also been linked to recovery from depression.

Your body creates its own vitamin D is when you are in sunlight. The more skin the sun sees, the more vitamin D your body makes. People with minimal sun exposure, especially those who wear modest clothing, are particularly at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Research is still uncertain regarding the exact connections between lack of vitamin D and depression. Yet the association between vitamin D and improved mood suggests that taking vitamin D supplements might help combat the moods swings or depression caused by your lack of exposure to sunlight.

The advent of fall and seeing less sun can alter moods and make day-to-day life more challenging. With these slight lifestyle adjustments, you can reduce the effects of the sun’s diminished rays and enjoy your days throughout the changes of seasons!

Lisning.com coach Kari Gila Sacks (MSW) can help you find happiness and meaning in your life. Find her here.

Dr. Grace McLaughlin has spent her life helping people get the most out of theirs. She is senior content writer at Lisning.com - the new gold standard for online therapists, coaches, and counselors.