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4 Winter Habits For People With S.A.D. – And How To Stick To Them
Seasonal affective disorder, known as S.A.D., is a mental health condition that affects about 4 to 6 percent of the population. Those who suffer from it experience a period of depression linked to seasonal changes. Though there are some people who develop S.A.D. in the summer, the vast majority of cases happen during the winter months. Common symptoms include lethargy, irritability, oversleeping, changes in appetite, and mood swings.
Many people who experience S.A.D. feel like there is not much they can do about it except wait for the spring to come. However, healthy habits can make a huge difference, if only sufferers are able to stick to them despite the lack of energy that comes with their illness. Below are the six key habits you should be keeping, and how to make them happen.
Regular exercise is one of the strongest mental health tools out there. It has been linked to reduced depression and anxiety, and it can even help prevent illnesses, including colds. However, the cold weather and lack of light can put people off from working out in the winter, not to mention the fatigue and lethargy caused by S.A.D.
There is not just one single solution for this, but a few that can suit different people. Some may benefit from taking up a sport, which fosters a sense of camaraderie that can be a source of motivation in itself – investing in some exciting high-quality gear can also be a good incentive. For others, the solution can be at-home exercises that you can do without even getting out of your comfy sweats, like YouTube yoga routines and body weight exercises.
One of the biggest problems with S.A.D. is that it causes cravings for sweet and starchy foods, which can, in turn, cause sugar spikes that make our moods unstable. Giving in to these cravings on a consistent basis thus creates a vicious, unhealthy cycle.
As with everything to do with diet, the secret is moderation. Let yourself have a cookie or a big plate of pasta once in a while, but on the whole, focus on keeping your diet balanced and nutritious. Learn to make healthy comfort foods that give you that warm fuzzy feeling without the bloat or mood swings.
Some people with S.A.D. have trouble sleeping, but what most people report is oversleeping. This can actually be a common misconception. According to Science Daily, S.A.D. sufferers tend to spend significantly more time in bed. This, in turn, makes them feel like they are sleeping too much, or that they are getting enough sleep when they actually aren’t.
This research indicates that cognitive behavioral therapy, which has shown to be effective with insomnia, could help with these issues. If this is not available to you, make a conscious effort to stay out of bed during the day. It can be hard when you are feeling depressed, but creating a comfy, cozy space somewhere else in your home could help.
Finally, look into light therapy, as it is one of the most effective ways to combat S.A.D. It works through something called a light box (or S.A.D. lamp), which creates a bright light that replicates natural sunlight. Using your lamp for 20 to 60 minutes every morning can help you combat the effects of S.A.D. by giving your body some much-needed light.
It’s difficult to practice good self-care when you are feeling depressed. However, being aware of the habits you should be practicing and learning ways to make it easier for yourself to follow them is a great first step. If you need extra support, rope in a friend or family member to encourage you through these habits, or discuss possible treatment options with your doctor.