Why You Are SAD When Bad Weather Hits, and How to Beat it

Picture this: it’s one of the first colder days of the season, or maybe it’s raining, or maybe the sun isn’t rising until 8:15 am and you are already out of the house having to go about your day. You have this feeling, a sinking, heavy weight on your shoulders and in your mind that you just can’t seem to shake. Your chest is a little tight, you’re irritated, your energy is in the tank, and you’d rather just stay in bed than face the world. You’re dreading the day, even though it holds nothing out of the ordinary. 

    You aren’t being dramatic, moody, or crabby. You also aren’t alone. This feeling, in the entire range of severity, is called SAD- seasonal affective disorder. It’s a scientifically supported explanation as to why you feel just plain bummed out when the weather turns crummy. Most of us have a lot easier time activating that happy-go-lucky attitude when the breeze is flowing through the windows on a beautiful, sunny, 75 degree day. It’s the same idea, just in reverse. Your body knows when the seasons are changing and there are multiple reasons why it responds the way it does. Your circadian clock can be thrown off by the reduced hours of sunlight, whether it be in the fall or early spring. Your serotonin (happy brain chemicals) and melatonin (calm and sleep hormones) levels are also affected and this results in usually negative effects on your mood and sleep patterns. 

    Now that we know why you may feel so down, I’ve got some easy and practical tips to help you beat the change of season blues and stay ahead of the mental health game for the rest of this long and daunting season.

  1. Aromatherapy- Who doesn’t love essential oils? A very versatile little weapon in your home and self care arsenal, this is yet another battle they can help you fight. The aromas from oils are great at navigating into your brain where your limbic system is, whether it be regulating your sleep or giving you an afternoon boost. For uplifting emotional support, citrus oils are going to be your best bet, like grapefruit and orange. Floral scents are great for calming, relaxing, and fighting off sadness and those uneasy feelings SAD can bring. Lavender is perfect for adding a peaceful essence to the room. 

  2. Light- Low Vitamin D levels are a strong driver of the depressed feelings that can arise in the winter. Getting outside is one of the best ways you can help combat this, but if that isn’t possible there are other options too, especially for the colder months. Red Light therapy beds, tanning beds and light therapy are all proven ways you can take some of the edge off of those long cold days. This is also a great excuse to take that tropical vacation, kick your feet up, and soak up the sun!

  3. Movement- Same as traditional or major depression, exercise can alleviate stress and clear the mind, even just simple movements like yoga or biking. It can also help reinforce routine which helps keep your body in a positive rhythm.

  4. Journaling- This comes down to just getting your thoughts out. Internalizing negativity or letting bad feelings brew can lead to a dark road that you don’t want to go down. Instead, try writing down your thoughts, concerns, or even just how your day went- good or bad, can help with relieving your mind of feelings or emotions that may hinder your health or sleep. Try this at bedtime, even just writing down a few things you’re thankful for and feel the weight be lifted off you! 

  5. Community- This may seem obvious, but surrounding yourself with people can be a great distraction from feeling down and depressed, especially this time of year. Call a friend, have a coffee date, go to a movie, and get yourself out of the house- even if you don’t really “feel” like it. Some socializing can snap you out of any funk real quick!

    So remember the next time a gloomy day has you down, be proactive and take care of yourself with small manageable steps. Winter should be a positive, fun, heartwarming season! You are never alone, and if you ever feel like you can’t handle managing symptoms or overwhelming feelings, don’t be afraid to reach out for help and talk to someone! The load is always lighter with the shoulder of someone else, and there is always someone who will listen. There is always hope, and the sun will rise again.