Growing up I lived mostly in warm weather and sunshine, a tropical girl at heart. However, I always remember feeling different about this time of the year when its approaching the holidays. By age 13 after moving to America from the Caribbean and being away from my mom and grandmother, I identified this feeling as just being homesick. I loved Christmas and of course I missed my family but this was my new life and I had to just get over it. But this continued well into my adulthood, there was this bout of sadness that came over me as soon as the days become shorter. I remember very vividly in high school walking to school in the morning before sunrise then after school going straight to basketball practice or preparing for a game. So when it was time for me to head home, it was already nighttime and having to do it all over again the very next morning. Oh and school had no windows AT ALL. Except for 30 min lunch and occasional PE class I went most days without sunlight during late fall/winter. Let’s not talk about the cold. Yes I lived in Miami at the time but anything below 80 degrees was cold. Below 70 was freezing. ha.
Fast forward to my first winter in New York, the symptoms were louder than ever. I did absolutely nothing the entire 3-4 months besides work and home. If any plans came up, I made excuses or cancelled and of course blamed it on the weather. It wasn’t until I learned about the term S.A.D Seasonal Affective Depression aka Seasonal Depression it explained some of the symptoms I’ve been experiencing over the years. So what I was experiencing was very real but I also learned there are mild to severe cases. Winter blues to Seasonal depression which is clinically diagnosed by a Mental Health Professional. This is where I will insert: Do not self-diagnosis but know that however you feel is validated. What I was experience is more of winter blues since generally I was still able to enjoy life even though it meant spending all day netflix and chill by myself. Stress from this time of the year and missing love ones is definitely a contributing factor.
SAD is in fact serious matter especially when there is a history of depression or coupled with another mental illness. One may experience:
- Depressed moods
- Feeling hopeless or unworthiness
- Low Energy
- Lost interested in things you once enjoyed
- Sleep disruptions
- Change in appetite
- Suicidal Thoughts
So whether your symptoms are mild to severe, researcher have found that it is related to a lack of or reduced sunlight.
Less Sunlight disrupts
- Serotonin levels which affects our mood and can trigger sadness and in severe causes depression. Yes because I always say the sun makes me happy!
- Melatonin levels which is important for sleep pattern. Lack of sleep will definitely affect your mood.
- Circadian Rhythm, our body’s internal clock. I personally take pride in waking up with the sun without having to set an alarm.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms or symptoms that lasts longer than 2 weeks , please seek professional help. Do not take these suggestions as substitution.
I have put together 15 activities and ideas when dealing with the winter blues or seasonal depression:
1. Get some sunlight. Yes even when it’s cold outside. If possible get 5-10 mins in direct sunlight. Let natural sunlight into your home. Open the curtains or blinds.
2. Vitamin D Supplements. Sunlight is the healthiest form of Vitamin D but supplements is a good substitute
3. Make plans ahead of time. Commit to and make an extra effort to spend time with your love ones. Mark it in your calendar and set a reminder.
4. Exercise. Movement gives you a boost of energy and increases your mood. Playing music and dancing around the house is my favorite thing to do.
5. Take a group class. In person or even online. Community and support is essential to our overall health & well-being. Eventbrite.com is a great place to search.
6. Do more of what brings you joy. Is there any fun activity you always loved doing? Painting, drawing, DIY etc?
7. Declutter your space. One of the greatest lesson I’ve learned in the last year is that my physical space represents my headspace. It will help you feel better.
8. Rearrange your space. If clutter is not an issue for you (MAJOR KUDOS), rearranged your furniture maybe bring a sense of newness and excitement. I remember my husband gave me hell while in the process of doing that last winter in our apartment but at the end he absolutely loved it. I knew we had outgrown the space and desperately wanted to move but our house search was taking much longer than expected. I had to do something different, I was losing my joy of being home and having a creative block.
9. Try something new. Maybe new hairstyle, new hobby or activity
10. Plan a trip! Don’t fell pressured that a trip has to international. You can plan something domestic, locally or even a staycation. I always down for a nice hotel room, good views and service. Maybe just a road trip- get in your car, find an open road and drive for a few hours.
11. Maintain a healthy diet and drinks lots of water. Our mind and gut are interconnected so what we eat does affect how we feel.
12. Regular check ins with your love ones. Again, if you usually cancel or go off the radar schedule these things ahead of time.
13. Serve others. Especially during the holidays it’s a great time to give back and volunteer your time to help the less fortunate.
14. Start a gratitude journal. Helps your feel more positive emotions
15. Self care: could be as simple as running a bubble bath once a week, lighting some candles or using essential oils can help relax your body. Book yourself a massage or spa day. (For in home massages: Soothe, Zeel)
Of course it’s always great to reach out and talk to your therapist or mental health professional.
Hope this helps. Talk to you soon.