Endless days of gloomy weather. Continued fighting and biting in Washington over health care reform and everything else. Too much war, too slow of an economy and too little sunshine. Honestly, who isn’t depressed this time of year?
According to Lynn Martin, Ph.D., director of educational support services at DMU, about 500,000 Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder, typically during the winter. Many more battle the less-serious winter blues. Symptoms include lethargy, fatigue, appetite swings, irritability and avoidance of social situations.
Take heart, however: Martin offers these coping strategies that don’t require moving to Maui.
- Exercise to improve mood, reduce stress and counter mass consumption of comfort foods.
- When the sun does shine, get outside to soak up the sunlight.
- Try light therapy with products that most resemble the sun’s rays. Choose light boxes that have at least 2,500 lux (a measure of light intensity).
- Incorporate color into your environment, particularly shades of red, yellow, orange and bright green. Add a plant, colorful pillows or bright vases.
- Eat right to bolster your immune system and sustain energy. Consider taking a daily vitamin.
- Get your ZZZZs: Sleep in a cool room free of distractions and noise. Follow a bedtime routine (it worked when you were a kid). If you wake up in the middle of the night and don’t fall back asleep in 20 minutes, get up and do something. “Tell yourself you’ll get up and scrub the kitchen floor,” Martin says. “You’re sure to fall asleep.”
- Have a good cry, then get over it. Keep a gratitude journal. For most of us, life truly is good.
- Do what Mom told you: Sit up straight, comb your hair and smile. Dress in a way that makes you feel and look good. Have sex. Dance.
- When all else fails, try something new – a new route to work, different music, a new restaurant – to change your mindset.