It’s that time of year again! Christmas trees are going up. Thanksgiving plans are in motion. You might be planning out which dish you want to make this year or wondering if you will finally move up from the kid’s table. But above all that, the sun has gone into hibernation. So say goodbye to evenings with the sun still up. It’s seasonal depression time. And while others are putting their trees up, I’m breaking out my SAD lamp and mentally preparing myself for the coming months. In the wise words of House Stark, ‘Winter is Coming.” (I started rereading A Song of Ice and Fire, so I apologize for all the GoT references coming in the next few articles.)  

Four Tips for Battling Seasonal Depression

First, seasonal depression is actually ‘seasonal affective disorder,’ but it sounds way too clinical for my taste, so I’ll stick with calling it seasonal depression. And while these tips might not completely rid you of the winter SADS, I might help mitigate some of the low energy-anxious depressive feelings. 

1. Use Light Therapy

I am a South Floridian, born and bred. I grew up in a state that gets more inches of rain a year than Oregon but still gets waaaaaaaaaaaay more sunlight. So when I first moved to Portland and became depressed (even if COVID was a huge factor), I was really confused. I remember a similar thing that happened to my cousin when she moved to Michigan. She had to buy a SAD lamp to imitate the sunlight she was so used to getting in our childhoods. I guess we are like Superman, charged by the sun’s rays, but it was something I always took for granted. And now, I live under my SAD lamp like a lizard in a tank. 

2. Take your Vitamins 

I rarely took vitamins as a kid. Either they were too boring to take in pill form and became a chore my ADHD brain did not like, or they tasted way too good for my good, and I would eat them like the gummy bears they were. But now, I take my daily vitamins like the old man I am. I even have one of those pill holder things that marks the days of the week. (The hardest part is remembering to fill it back up at the end of the week.) But during winter, I always prioritize taking Vitamin D and calcium. This is because I’ve noticed that I generally feel so much better during the months I take them. Getting on a whole vitamin and supplement regimen can be annoying, but if you start with one and slowly build up good habits, the next thing you know, you’re swallowing ten pills in the morning like I am. (It’s not as bad as it sounds, I swear.) 

3. Get in Some Exercise

Maintaining a gym routine might be the hardest thing on this list for some. I struggled with this a lot over the last few years. It is crazy when I think back on how active I used to be, but getting out of bed, putting on clothes that aren’t oversized hoodies and sweatpants, and going to the gym is hard. But I love how I feel afterward, except for those tough workouts that leave me gasping for breath and numb all over. But when those endorphins release, I can immediately sense the change in my mood. I feel better and healthier and a little less sad. The hard part is starting. It’s like trying to get a toddler to take a bath. They whine and cry about not wanting to, but they don’t want to stop once they’re in the water. Funny how the brain works like that sometimes. It doesn’t want to do the thing that’s good for you, but when you do, it asks why we don’t do that thing more often.  

4. Follow a Healthy Diet   

I love food. I plan trips and vacations around places to eat and yummy food. And while food can be a thing of great joy, it is also a laborious task that most of us hate doing during the week. Maybe we don’t hate eating during the week, but cooking is a pain. Either you cook something different every day and have a stack of dirty dishes that would rival a Golden Corral, or you can meal prep on your days off and eat the same thing every day for the next week. Both sound awful. (Unless you have ADHD and are hyper-focused on a single meal and will eat it until you get the ick and can no longer touch the stuff.) Also, unlike going to the gym, there isn’t an immediate endorphin boost in your brain when you cook something healthy, which makes the chore even harder. But maintaining a relatively healthy diet can be the difference between low-energy sluggishness and having the energy to take on the day no matter how cold, wet, and dark it might be. 

Fall Back, Spring Forward

I hate daylight savings. I love gaining a random hour of sleep once a year, but it also marshals in the dark months of winter. Nothing is more demoralizing than when the sun sets before 5 pm, and you are tired and ready for bed, only to realize it’s 7:30. The time change is the worst. I would be forever thankful if our government could get its sh** together and pass that stupid bill. I can’t stop winter from coming, but I can mentally prepare for the seasonal depression that comes along with it. Hopefully, some of these tips work for you as they do for me.      

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