Seasonal Affective Disorder impacts about 1 in every 20 Americans (Mikhail, 2022). It is known as a form of depression that affects many people during the colder months. It can affect someone’s feelings, mood, and how they deal with daily activities. Symptoms include hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, problems with sleep, low energy levels, social withdrawal, and losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable. Self-care may be a way to make the symptoms better and cope with them. There are so many different ways to practice self-care, so a few ideas are outlined below.
1. Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal has been linked to increased happiness. Journaling about things you are grateful for can be a great way to focus on your positive emotions and the things that make you happy. It also increases your self-awareness and points out the things that make you happy so you can spend more time doing those things. There are so many different prompts you can follow to get you started, however some of my favorites are outlined on the website of the National Alliance of Mental Illness. https://www.namikdk.org/post/journal-prompts-for-mental-health-more-on-journaling
2. Go for a walk to get some fresh air
Taking a walk in the fall when the trees are beautiful and the weather is perfect can be so relaxing. Not only can walking every day help your physical health, but it is also good for your mental health. Walking releases endorphins in your body, otherwise known as feel-good chemicals. Because of this, it can lower your stress levels and boost your mood. In the winter months, I know people will not want to go outside in the cold and walk because I wouldn’t either. However, a good alternative would be a treadmill if you have one, and you could sit outside for 5 minutes with some warm, comfy clothes, a blanket, and a warm drink to feel refreshed.
3. Get enough sleep
After the time changes, it can be hard for some people to follow their normal sleep schedule. This can often result in fatigue and low energy levels. It is important to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night to be fully rested. Getting enough sleep can reduce stress and improve your mood. It can also help you think clearly during the day and make better decisions.
Staying hydrated all the time, but especially in the winter, can provide so many benefits. Drinking enough water each day has been known to support your immune system, which is good for colds and other illnesses that circulate in the winter. Sufficient hydration can positively affect memory, concentration, reaction time, and mood.
5. Create a chill fall or winter playlist
One of my favorite things to do is listen to new music and create so many different playlists. Listening to music can help reduce blood pressure and calm you in stressful situations. It has also been known to treat mental illness and depression. Putting on songs you love can be a great way to calm down or relax after a stressful day. One of my favorite calming playlists that includes some popular songs that people might be familiar with is linked below.
6. Yoga or meditating
Yoga is so relaxing and it has been known to give you more energy, improve your mood, decrease stress, and develop inner awareness. It can also help with other coping methods you may find useful, such as mindfulness and breathing exercises. There are apps that walk you through these activities, or you can follow different sessions on YouTube as well. One of my favorite accounts to follow is Yoga with Adriene. She walks through so many different yoga sessions ranging in difficulty, length of time, content, and goals for each session. https://www.youtube.com/@yogawithadriene
7. Clean and organize your space
You don’t have to wait until spring to clean your home or dorm. I find that when I have a clean space, I can focus better. I am also more motivated to do my work. Start by finishing small tasks, such as washing the dishes or doing the laundry. After these are finished, you can move on to tidying up and organizing things in your home, such as an unruly cabinet, a junk drawer, or anything else that you find to be messy. Finally, you can figure out which items need to be deep cleaned. This might include a refrigerator, oven, closet, etc.
8. Take a relaxing bath
Soaking in a bath with essential oils, bath bombs, and bubbles can be one of the ways that you relax and calm down after a stressful day. Baths can improve stress, mood, and fatigue. They can also get rid of pain and relieve tension in the body. Baths have even been associated with reduced depression, anxiety, and anger.
9. Spend time in the sun.
Even if it is too cold to go outside to enjoy the sun, you could open your curtains or blinds and let some sunlight into your home or room. Just sitting in the sun for a few minutes can help your body’s production of vitamin D, and it has been known to promote good mental health. And, to be honest, it’s kind of aesthetic.
10. Connect with friends and family.
I know you may want to isolate yourself; however, this is one of the worst things you could do. Spending time and planning activities with people you care about can help you feel better. It can remind you of how loved you truly are and that people care deeply about you.
Completing all of these activities will not make seasonal depression go away automatically. However, these are ways to get your mind off of it and make it easier to cope. Practicing self-care can be fun, and once you recognize this, it might make you happier in the long run. Just know that you will get through this rough patch, and you will come out on the other side as a better person because of it. And summer will be on the other side, so we have that to look forward to!
Mikhail, Alexa. “Seasonal Affective Disorder Affects Millions of People. Here Are the Symptoms.” Fortune Well, Fortune, 30 Sept. 2022, fortune.com/well/2022/09/29/seasonal-affective-disorder-affects-millions-of-people-heres-what-to-look-out-for/#