As the final weeks of September creep in, the weather has
begun to cool off.
With the cooling
temperatures comes the sure sign that fall is not far behind: falling leaves,
football, hoodies, and pumpkin spice lattes.
For those who enjoy the fall season, it’s a fun and exciting time, but
for those who dread the dark and dreary winter coming it can be a time of
anxiety and concern that negative feels are soon to follow.
There are a great many people in the U.S. who suffer from
depressive symptoms that set in as the calendar turns from September to October
As the days get shorter
and the nighttime comes earlier, it’s easier to get stuck in the negative
feelings that come with the loss of warm, comforting weather.
The medical community refers to this as
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and while not everyone feels the symptoms
severely enough to warrant a diagnosis, most of us can relate to needing a
little boost during this time of year.
Here are some tips that you can use to help battle the
dreary feelings associated with this time of year:
Recognize the symptoms
- The most
important place to begin is to understand the symptoms of SAD.
The most common symptoms include trouble
getting out of bed, losing motivation to do this, no longer having interest in
things you used to love, changes in appetite, difficulty focusing, and an
inability to think clearly.
symptoms appear in cycle in SAD, meaning that you won’t really feel them any
time other than the fall and winter months.
So if you’re a ball of energy in June, but a puddle January, you may be
experiencing SAD symptoms.
Let in the Sun
- Part of the reason that
we experience depressive symptoms during this time of year is that we have less
exposure to sunlight as the days get shorter.
You’re mind and body are in tune with world around you, so when you
don’t see as much sun, your mood is bleaker and down.
You can challenge this by increase the amount
of sunlight you’re exposed to.
open the shades, wake up earlier to enjoy the sun, and replace the dark paint
with some brighter, vibrant colors.
may even help to move the furniture around so that your couch and bed are in
Actively engage in things you enjoy
While our energy level during this time of
year can be low, it’s important to force ourselves to be active to combat these
Now is a great time
to plan activities, even if our motivation might be less than great.
In most cases, you’ll find that once you get
out of the house, your energy returns to its previous, summertime state.
If you’re able, you may even want to schedule
a vacation during these winter months instead of using it all up during the
Be actively healthy
- When our energy
level is low health factors often fall by the wayside, which contributes to our
Instead of feeling like its
too cold out to hit the gym, force yourself to try and get in a workout.
Avoid those unhealthy fast food meals just
because they’re easier and make the effort to eat a little healthier.
Your body will be boosted by the increased
efforts to be healthy, and your mind will follow close behind.
Check out light therapy
- Some client’s
who suffer from SAD find it helpful to utilize light therapy in an effort to
improve their mood.
involves using a device that emits light closer that emitted by the sun in an
effort to help your mind and body forget about the drab conditions
outside. There are several devices available—from battery-powered
visors, portable light boxes and special light bulbs, to dawn simulators (lamps
that switch on before dawn and gradually light your room, like the sun
rising)—but be cautious and talk to your health care provider before trying
If all else fails, get help- SAD is a common condition that affects people,
particularly those living in the Midwest where the winters are long and
cold. It can also be a serious one that
causes significant stress in our daily lives.
If you’ve tried all these and other techniques with little improvement,
don’t hesitate to seek clinical help from your doctor or from a counselor like
the ones at the Anxiety & Stress Center!
Just because the weather is bleak outside, doesn’t mean that
we have to match it with our feelings inside.
If you feel like you have less motivation and energy during the winter
months, be active in challenging it.
With these tips, you can help to ensure that the season doesn’t dictate
William Knor, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor