Feeling snowed under by the gloom of winter? Dig yourself out one shovel-full at a time with these seasonal sadness strategies:
- Fortify yourself: When you're feeling down, you might skimp on nutrition. Some people will be tempted to dull the sting of sadness with unhealthy comfort foods or alcohol. But it's during times of stress that your body especially needs nutritious food and healthy eating habits. Even if you're very stressed or feeling down, make eating regular, healthy meals a top priority. Drink plenty of water, and think of enhancing your diet with vitamin D.
- Relax: Feelings of anxiety and sadness take a real toll on the mind and on your overall health. Carve out a time in each day for true relaxation. But don't plop in front of the TV or huddle under your comforter. Real relaxation takes mindfulness and calm concentration. Deep breathing exercises or meditative practices can give your mind time and space to regenerate, soothing anxious nerves and hopefully energizing and resetting your mood.
- Get moving: Exercise has been noted as a great way to beat the blues. In addition to enhancing your diet with vitamin D, your body will get more vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. With shorter daylight hours in the winter, you may have lower vitamin D levels, which can affect your serotonin activity. Even if you can't exercise, try to go outside for a bit to enjoy the sunlight.
- Reflect: Write in a journal or on an online blog to describe the emotions you're feeling. By analyzing your thoughts and reflecting on your mood and the reactions you're having to the approaching holidays, you may shed light on the why's of your feelings. Make a list of things about the holidays that upset you or cause you the strongest feelings of sadness. See if you notice patterns and if you can make your list actionable. Change "I hate being so far away from my parents" into a goal for next year to save up money to visit your family.
- Create your own traditions: If you feel down because of your religious or ideological opposition to the winter holidays, create your own annual traditions for this time of year. Set up a dinner party with friends, go on a trip, or involve yourself in charitable works for causes you're passionate about. Build your own niche for this time of year so you have something special to look forward to or absorb your interest.
- Seek help: There's no need for you to go it alone. If your feelings of sadness or hopelessness become more serious (i.e., if they are severe and are interfering with your work or your relationships), talk to a mental health professional. Light therapy and psychotherapy (talk therapy) are sometimes used, and they have been shown to be effective in improving SAD symptoms. If you have another mental illness, make sure you're getting the most out of your current therapy, whether it's a non-medication or medication therapy (e.g., not missing your daily dose of medications). In addition to getting professional help, you can also take advantage of resources in or around your own community to help you get through a rough emotional time.
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