Winter can be hard for anyone, and even harder when you’re depressed. Getting the right nutrients and increasing support are just some of the ways you can handle the seasonal slump.
I grew up in scenic New England and currently reside in a charming area of Canada that looks like a holiday card after the first snowfall — so of course I love winter, right? I mean, how could I not?
The truth is, I can’t stand the cold.
My husband is an avid skier and it looks like our two kids will follow his passion for the slopes. But if you’re looking for me, I will be the one cozying up on a chair at the lodge, enjoying hot cocoa and reading the latest Emily Henry rom-com.
Since I was a teenager, the shorter days of winter have been a struggle, with darker periods of depression and sadness increasing. And I’m not alone in this. Many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), usually starting in the fall and winter months.
As a busy mom with two toddlers, I know I have to be proactive as the colder days approach. After all, I’m the best fort builder and hide-and-seek finder in our household, and I can’t allow the winter blues to distract me from these important tasks.
A few years ago, when our first son was born, I explored methods to curb the lower moods triggered in winter and have been able to turn to them consistently with great results.
It doesn’t mean I don’t have a rough day here and there, but for the most part, I don’t dread the winter as much as I used to.
I get blood tests every year and one of the things my doctor flagged a couple of years ago was a significantly low vitamin D level.
This was not something that had come up previously, which is why it’s so important to get tests done regularly. I started taking vitamin D supplements daily, and within a few months, I noticed a big increase in energy.
It turns out that about 1 billion people in the world are deficient. It’s actually referred to as a “silent epidemic,” since it can take several years for symptoms to present themselves.
Consider talking with your doctor to find out if a vitamin D deficiency could be contributing to your depression symptoms.
After I came back refreshed from spending the last week of January in Aruba a couple of years ago, I really wanted to do whatever I could to capture those brighter moments.
My trainer mentioned during one of our sessions that she had purchased an affordable “SAD lamp,” and it was doing wonders for her. These lamps essentially mimic sunlight and, as such, can help the body produce more serotonin.
So I ordered one and started using it every day. When it really helps is when I set it up near me as I do a workout at home. I don’t feel so sluggish and it helps me maintain stamina throughout the routine.
Do I still miss the sun and fun of “One Happy Island”? Absolutely. But it’s nice to have a way to replicate some of its sun-filled atmosphere.
I know that when it comes to the colder months, I will need reinforcements — especially when daylight saving hits.
My therapist and I have worked it out so we touch base a couple of times a week in the winter. We break up the sessions from an hour to 30 minutes each, which has really helped combat some of the stress of those colder, darker days while keeping the cost the same.
The sessions might be shorter, but I like having her available to connect, navigating moments when I might need more support.
I’m a habitually lazy cook, especially in the winter. I tend to turn to the same food dishes, neglecting the variety that we need in our daily diets.
I met with a dietitian who gave me some great recipe options that were relatively easy for me to prepare and included a nice mix of ingredients.
I also signed up for one of those companies that send you the ingredients and you just have to cook the meal. I only did this for a few weeks, but it gave me some great recipe options that I could recreate on my own. I even got my 5-year-old involved and we had a blast.
I’m still not ready to host my own Food Network show, but I’m expanding my skill set, and for me, that’s huge.
Finding ways to diversify your diet and making sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need is a great, natural way to help your mental health.
Some research has shown a strong link between getting healthy bacteria in your gut and mental well-being. For example, adding probiotics to your diet has been associated with improved depression symptoms.
Sure I would love to plan a trip to Florida for a week in February, but with the kids’ school schedules and cost of travel, it’s just not feasible right now. So we plan little weekend trips with our crew.
And yes, we go to one of our favorite ski lodges where my husband and oldest hit the slopes while my 2-year-old and I explore the quaint town. It’s complete chaos with inevitable kiddo meltdowns, but we laugh, and for a few nights we don’t have to worry about cleaning or cooking, which is just magical.
Coming up with simple ways to get away from your typical routine can help you feel less bogged down by the shorter, darker days. Even if it’s a day trip to a nearby destination, sometimes just seeing or doing something new is more helpful than you think.
There’s no doubt that for some of us, winter is not just about the jolly holidays. It can come with dark days and even darker thoughts.
Having some tools in place to manage those challenging moments can make all the difference — and trust me, I have the SAD light to prove it.
Medically reviewed on December 22, 2022
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