While seasonal depression has always been a hot topic, the pandemic has certainly underscored the importance of taking care of ourselves both physically and mentally. With all the work many of us have put forward to maintain good mental health throughout the past year, now is not the time to “Fall Back”. As the cold weather approaches and the time clock hits reverse, being mindful of not just coping, but working towards preventing the effects of seasonal depression will be essential to maintain our health and wellness throughout the long Ottawa winter. Here are 5 ways that you can get ahead of your winter blues and keep seasonal depression at bay.
Find Someone To Talk To
Whether it be a friend, family member, or counsellor, talking to people regularly is not only good when things are getting tough, but also when they are going well. Opening the line of communication early will give you easier access to touch base with your support system when and if symptoms of seasonal depression begin rearing their ugly head. Waiting until you experience feelings of crisis can add extra stress to what may already feel like a pretty full plate.
Let There Be Light
With how many links there are to light therapy and seasonal depression, does not having your daily UV dosage really make any sense? As the hours in the day grow shorter, incorporating artificial light from a designated light therapy lamp will be very beneficial. While sitting in front of one of these lamps for even a few minutes a day can help in maintaining optimal mental health in our SAD season, soaking up the natural sun during peak hours is also essential. Besides, nothing feels better than inhaling the crisp cold air when you need to clear your mind.
Get In A Routine
Seasonal affective disorder can often leave you feeling tired, overwhelmed, and down. When dealing with feelings like this, staying motivated and productive can be a challenge. By developing a routine ahead of time and seeing it through the winter months, you can keep on track of your daily tasks and remain accountable, even on the most difficult of days.
Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to ward off the effects of SAD and keep you feeling healthy both physically and mentally through the coldest months. Exercise releases endorphins, which are associated with a more positive mood. Committing to an exercise routine can also help to keep any winter weight off while allowing your mind to stay clear and motivated throughout the season. If you don’t have a chance to get outside often, there are many videos online to help you get your heart rate up and maintain or improve your strength so that you come out in spring feeling better than ever. Consider a daily walking/running routine, yoga and pilates, attending weekly classes, joining (and committing to) a gym, or taking part in a recreational team sport.
Whether it’s the soft music, the peaceful voice in a guided meditation, or the slowing of your heart rate and grounding exercises, meditating is a great way to practice mindfulness, being present, and calming the mind. Often when people are dealing with stress and anxiety, they experience overwhelming feelings and intrusive thoughts. Meditation is a great tool that teaches you how to shift your attention from unhelpful thoughts to a more peaceful or positive state of mind, and can also boost your serotonin levels naturally.
Winters in our city often feel long and drawn out. While we may dream of cozying up into our beds and going into hibernation until spring, this can leave us feeling worse than ever before. This year, let’s face our winter head-on by remaining active, being mindful, keeping accountable, and taking the necessary steps to beat the seasonal blues before they even begin.
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