I wanted to open up about a topic that is very real for me and so many others, especially throughout winter time. I’ve even had a hard time formulating how to organize this post and putting unnecessary pressure and even avoidance around touching on the topic. As a licensed Art Therapist it's an area I am very familiar with when working with patients. For me though, it is a personal struggle too. For a long time I’ve dealt with seasonal affective disorder. I have recognized typical symptoms and even as a clinician they can still be difficult to deal with. If you aren’t familiar, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that impacts one’s mood at the same time every year. Depending on where you live you may experience varying symptoms especially during the winter months that leave you feeling bleak and unmotivated for no apparent reason. You may also experience trouble sleeping, fatigue, less energy, difficulty concentrating, and even weight gain are some symptoms.
For me personally I noticed it became worse once I moved to New York City. Which meant less sunlight and like most people in the North East United States, not getting enough vitamin D in the winter. Add into the mix the cold temperatures and all I wanted to do is hibernate inside or jet set to a tropical island for some sun. Seasonal Affective Disorder may having you feeling the winter blues a little bit more than usual and it can be frustrating. I also found it is more common in cases of woman than men. Sometimes even my husband has a hard time relating or making sense of my feelings when my mood is allover the place. As someone who has dealt in the past with anxiety and this condition I would at times find myself feeling guilty or irritable at the thought of doing something social with friends and with a feeling of wanting to burst into tears for no apparent reason.
If you’re noticing that you are suffering from 24/7 symptoms I highly recommend discussing further with your doctor or therapist to find the best support. I found it to be helpful in talking through what I was experiencing. It was good to feel validated and not shameful. If you find that you do have Seasonal Depression there are a few strategies to try gradually, then over time work them into the daily routine that works for you. Trying some ways to get out of the mindset and off the couch will definitely help and can do no harm!
These are my top 10 tips for combatting SAD:
1. Light Therapy
I try to use this light for 30 minutes in the morning when I’m getting ready or handling tasks at home. If you can do another 30 minute session later in the day the benefits could reduce some of the SAD symptoms. I just wouldn’t try it before bed because it could keep you awake.
The bright light is like that of natural sunlight but it is safe. It may have benefits to decrease some of the symptoms of SAD. When we’re getting less sunlight in the fall and winter our brain is most likely producing less serotonin which would impact someone’s mood. Two recent studies suggest the culprit is a brain circuit that connects special light-sensing cells in the retina with brain areas that affect whether we are happy or sad. When these cells detect shorter days, they appear to use this pathway to send signals to the brain that can make a person feel glum or even depressed.
Whether it be in your home with a fitness app or at the gym, making a commitment to a consistent workout routine is key to helping yourself feel better and stay healthy. An even better way is to sign up for a fitness class you can have on your schedule or have a friend be each other’s work out buddy. Since we moved into a newer building we have an ah-mazing gym that offers pilates, yoga, and spin class too! It was one of the decisions we had when choosing this particular building. We loved the bright windows in the gym and the space with the convenience of it being downstairs. Either way, getting up and getting your body moving is key to boosting your mood. You’ll be glad you did and no one ever says after a killer workout, wow I feel so sad after that !
Outfit Details & More Fitness Athleisure:
3. Self Care- Bubble Baths & Meditation
Treating yourself to a weekly ritual of a bath can be relaxing and will warm you right up. I use aromatherapy candles and indulge in my favorite bath bombs with a great play list. I keep technology away during this time and try to just focus on meditation to calm me.
One of my new favorite and healthier ways to unwind after work is to turn on my essential oils diffuser. I received two for gifts and love the calming light that changes in mine. I find that just putting 5 drops of oil depending on what I need for my mood can help with my energy level and reduces tension headaches. I love lavender as I wind down for bed, eucalyptus/ peppermint mint, and even citrus for the morning.
5. Get Out & Explore
Living in NYC for so long has its perks of always having something to do or see. But with cooler weather and the excitement of the holiday season over it can be hard to keep up with the socializing. Fortunately, now that we live in a new neighborhood we have a whole new environment to explore in Brooklyn. Something I want to keep working on is a “Brooklyn Bucketlist” of activities, restaurants, and classes to try.
Recently a friend invited me to a fresh wreath class and I loved having a Friday night out after a stressful work week spent with a friend! We learned from the flower expert, Carly Cylinder of the flower chef on how to hand tie a fresh wreath. She was so sweet and inspiring! I’m definitely grabbing a copy of her book and if you’re interested in learning more about DIY florals check this out. It was way easier than I expected and now I’ve learned a new skill I could create as a gift along with the book.
Brooklyn Brainery offers tons of classes throughout NYC and include anything from painting, florals, photography, and soap making and more. Next month I plan on trying a neon light workshop.
6. Treat Yourself to a Trip
Of course it’s not always possible to book a flight and escape but putting a plan in place a year ahead of time and saving even if it’s for a mini getaway to someplace warm or a spot you’ve never been before. It can be refreshing to change up your day to day and take some time for self care and getting some real vitamin D from the sun. I love using Hitlist. It’s an app to track flight trends and see last minute deals.
And if you need a little travel inspiration, you can check out some of my trips here!
7. Self Tan Ritual
This may be just me but I alway feel a little brighter when I have a little more of a glow. I’ve tried to stay away from tanning booths and to just rely on organic self tanners. That can give me a little boost if I’m starting to look too much like Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Also these are great to use prior to a beach vacation where you don’t want to be burned in the sun. I love Vita Liberata products. Always remember to use a mit and keep moisturizing after you self tan. I usually do it once to twice a week depending on how dark I want to go. It doesn’t have a smell and doesn’t usually transfer unless you have night sweats like me. I usually self tan at night after exfoliating in the shower and wear loose old dark PJs to save my sheets...and my relationship.
8. Music to your Ears
Creating a playlist of music can be uplifting for your mood and with Spotify I can customize and organize my playlists by what activity I’m doing. Whether it’s a playlist for the gym, meditation during my commute, music that’s relaxing while I work, or for the bath to wind down it always helps. Music does wonders for our brain and can help when we’re feeling down. My husband, Kevin, actually has a motivation playlist you might enjoy!
9. Healthy Diet
Consistency is key when making changes to support your overall health and energy levels. Smart choices about what you’re putting in your body impact how you feel almost immediately. One routine I’ve started is a daily detox water that is full of ingredients that promote overall health. I use a recipe from Katie’s Bliss and have made little tweaks so I can stomach the apple cider vinegar and biter lemon. Honey definitely helps and so does ginger to add some sweetness.
I also started having only salads for lunch and switching them up from something Asian, fruity, or hearty with squash and quinoa in them. I’ve tried to boost my protein and nut intake so I’m getting enough vitamin B12 which also helps with energy levels and mood.
One habit I have to get better about is my sweet tooth. We love creating home made ice cream as an after dinner treat. I cut alcohol for all of this month and that’s helped with feeling less sluggish and overall healthy with less calorie intake. Just introduce some new changes over time and make routines that are easy to stick with. I batch the lemon detox water on Sundays & Wednesdays so I have it for the week on the go.
10. Bedtime Routine
This one is the absolute hardest for me as I find that I’m sleepy throughout the day because I’m not getting enough sleep at night for various reasons. My husband has programmed a bed time routine reminder into our Alexa that makes me wish I could snooze it, but has put me more aware. Winding down with no technology or blue light an hour before sleep is key to an easier time falling and staying asleep. Try not to eat an hour before bed as well as to not disrupt our digestive track. I also recommend using blue light glasses if you do have a job where you’re at your computer for more than 2 hours a day. My routine has been an evening bath, switching on my oil diffuser, putting lotion on my feet with warm socks, and reading a book that is not work related. I’ve also been trying to get a jump on waking up earlier to take advantage of daylight hours. This has been one of my hardest goals to meet thus far. I did find this waking light alarm clock that could be useful that wakes you gradually.
These are some of my favorite bed time products. I love my silk scrunchis. I use these to preserve my blowout or curl & put my hair in a loose pony/bun for bed time. I also recommend one of the silk pillowcases!
Whether you are coping with SAD or not, I hope that sharing my insights into these ten simple life improvements has been helpful! Be sure to tailor some of these tips to create your own level of self care for your personal mental health. Keep going strong on those new years resolutions and don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t carry out all the coping methods at once. Just being honest with yourself is the first step in the right direction toward a healthier you! Thanks for stopping by if you stuck with it until the end of this longer post. If you’d like to see more content like this comment and share your feedback.