Where I live we recently came through a period of 11 straight days with zero sunshine. ZERO. In eleven days. And our glimpses of sunlight have been few and far between even since then! Talk about winter blues!
It may be even worse where you live. While we’ve dealt with gray skies and lots of rain, you may find yourself also confined by snow and ice and dealing with extreme cold.
Winter is tough. And sometimes the final stretch of it is the worst.
There was a time when I would’ve laughed at anyone suggesting the existence of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression brought on by the gloom of winter. But as the years have passed, I have come to see more and more just how deeply, (and negatively,) I am affected by the short, dim days and dismal weather of the winter season.
So what’s a mom to do? It’s not like you can resign from mommyhood from December to March every year to go crawl under the covers and hide from the cold, cold world. Unfortunately, hibernation is not an option for moms.
But let’s look at a few options for dealing with the dismal days of winter, especially these last weeks of it that can sometimes prove to be the worst of all.
*And please be aware this little post is not intended as medical advice. If you’re experiencing serious or prolonged issues with depression, please see your doctor.
Get up and get moving!
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise releases endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals) that can help ease depression and raise your body temperature, which has a calming effect on both body and mind. Exercise also reduces chemicals of the immune system that tend to worsen the symptoms of depression.
Of course, when your spirits are low and you’re feeling zapped of energy, the last thing in the world you want to do is get up and exercise. I also know what a challenge it can be to exercise regularly when you’re busy with a family and a thousand life responsibilities.
But exercise doesn’t have to include a trip to the gym, expensive equipment, or even a regular workout routine. If you need workout ideas or inspiration, there are scores of videos and workout routines available online, but exercising can be as simple as gathering the kids, cranking up the music, and dancing away!
Not only does getting outside tend to encourage exercise, it also exposes you to more natural light, which can do a lot to lift your spirits. The sun’s ultraviolet rays on our skin prompt our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which is a natural mood booster. And don’t assume you can’t reap the benefits of sunlight on a cloudy day! There’s no question you can soak up more Vitamin D on a sunny day than a cloudy one, but your body will still benefit from filtered light, even on a day when the sun isn’t shining.
So bundle up and head out of doors for a quick walk, a jump on the kids’ trampoline, or even just a few minutes on the back porch.
Consider light therapy.
I remember how hard it was to get out of the house for even a moment when my children were very small and the weather seemed perpetually awful. Some of you deal with your own health issues or have children with problems that make it difficult to head out in less-than-ideal weather, even for short periods of time. For some of you, even escaping to the back porch for a little sunlight can be a challenge!
Light therapy or a home light box can be a solution for some. Light therapy mimics some of the mood-enhancing benefits of sun exposure, all within the comfort and temperature controls of your home. According to multiple studies, the majority of users do see improvement in seasonal depression symptoms with regular use. Most light boxes are under $100, a small price to pay for someone really struggling with wintertime blues.
The truth is, most of us fall into some bad eating habits during the holiday season. We begin to feel the full effect of our poor decision-making in the weeks that follow, which may very well add to our seasonal depression. Some researchers even believe our reduced exposure to sunlight in winter causes our bodies to crave sugars and carbs as a means of restoring lost energy. What makes it worse is that most of the snacks we eat to fulfill our cravings are calorie and sugar-packed and do little more than provide quick bursts of energy that end in a mood-killing sugar crash.
Disciplining ourselves to maintain a healthy diet may be more important in the winter months than any other time. Lean proteins and fruits and vegetables can provide our bodies with the vitamins we need to feel our best, both physically and mentally, which will naturally result in better feelings emotionally.
Essential oils may not be the answer for more severe problems with seasonal depression, but their use can be very helpful in milder cases. Olfactory glands absorb certain aromas and convert them into “feel-good” hormones that help lift your mood. Diffusing oils like lavender, bergamot, frankincense, and citrus oils can have a calming, uplifting effect, not to mention they make your house smell great, which can do a lot to lift your spirits as well!
However you choose to tackle your wintertime blues, it’s important to remember the cold, dark days of winter will come to an end. No matter how long and dismal the winter may seem, it is always followed by spring.
I’m already smiling at the thought of it!
Do you suffer from some kind of seasonal depression? What do you do to help yourself overcome the winter blues?