With the temperature gradually getting cooler and the days getting shorter, it can be hard to say goodbye to summer and make a smooth transition to the fall. As the weather starts to change, some people may find that they experience a change in their mood as well. Feeling unmotivated and a little blue are common to experience as the colder months begin to creep up on us. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may affect 11 million people in the U.S., typically bringing on symptoms that mirror those of depression. Finding ways to cope with SAD is important for maintaining your mental and physical well-being during the fall/winter months. For some assistance during this time, here are a few tips that could help with making a smoother transition to the colder months.
Tip #1: Create a seasonal bucket list for yourself
Having a list of activities to do in the fall and winter can get you excited for the new seasons. A seasonal bucket list can include any fall or winter related activities that you want to do throughout the seasons. Some examples could be hosting a holiday movie night, going to a pumpkin patch, or planning a day to make winter-themed treats with friends. Your list can also include goals that you want to accomplish during the fall/winter. Maybe your goals include reading more books or trying a new hobby. It doesn’t matter how big or small the goal is, as long as it’s something that brings you a lot of joy!
Tip #2: Make sure to still get outside
Although the days are starting to get shorter and the temperature is dropping, making time to get outside is still beneficial to your mental health. SAD typically occurs due to having decreased exposure to natural sunlight so it’s important to make time in your day to get outside. Try going outside within 30 minutes of waking up, bundling up and going for a walk, or reading a book outdoors. If you can’t get out early, investing in a light therapy lamp that mimics natural sunlight could help with providing the physical benefits of actual sunlight.
Tip #3: Schedule time to exercise
Physical health and mental health go hand and hand. Working out for just a few minutes everyday has shown to have great improvements on managing stress, improving confidence, and giving an overall mood boost. Starting with just 10 minutes a day is a great way to see results. Remaining consistent will also allow you to see the best long-term results. Outdoor exercises such as going for a run or ice skating can allow you to get moving in the sun while also trying something new.
Tip #4: Allow your routine to change
As the fall begins to roll around, your daily summertime routine will begin to change with it. Shorter days and longer nights may cause a shift in your morning and night routine. You may feel like getting up a little bit later and going to bed a little earlier as your body starts to adjust to the new season. Take some time to re-create your routine for the morning and night while also scheduling in time for fun activities and responsibilities during the day. While it’s important to stick to a routine, remember that you don’t have to be rigid with your plans. Listening to your body is key during these times so allow yourself to be a bit more fluid within your routine.
Tip #5: Make plans to spend time with loved ones
As it gets colder and your mood starts to decline, you may be inclined to spend more time wrapped up indoors by yourself. However, it’s important to avoid isolating yourself completely as this can further increase the symptoms of SAD. Scheduling time to spend with friends gives you something to look forward to and allows you to spend time with those you love. It may also help to let your loved ones know about needing extra support during this time. Speaking openly about mental health can be hard but allows you to gain support and understanding from those you love.
Tip #6: Change your diet
While no foods will cure SAD, eating well-balanced meals can help prevent mood swings. SAD typically causes an increase in appetite, especially for foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. It’s okay to indulge in these foods occasionally, but it’s good to focus on meals high in protein, fiber and healthy fats. Foods with Vitamin D and magnesium can help to improve your mood as well. Having a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is also key to treating SAD. To keep things fun, set aside seasonal recipes that you love to not only help you eat well but to also get into the spirit of the new season.
Tip #7: Seek help from a Professional
If you still need additional help, it may be beneficial to reach out to a professional. Having someone to talk with through this time or getting medication can be favorable in managing symptoms, even if they only last for a few months. If you need help finding a therapist, you can check out our post on how to find a therapist. You can also check out this website that includes a variety of resources on how to find a therapist and hotlines for immediate support.
Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder can be challenging during the fall and winter. Having resources ahead of time can help you take your feelings head on and prepare you for the upcoming months. If you feel any symptoms related to SAD, try out these tips as you may find them to be effective in fighting off the winter blues.