A toolkit for SADness

Photo by Walid Amghar

Winter is my least favorite season. I really don’t trust people who claim winter to be their favorite season. While I appreciate how beautiful a fresh snowfall can be, the bitter cold, the ungodly short days, and the inability to enjoy most outdoor activities make winter my least favored time of the year.

Finally having realized that I do not do well in the winter months, at least emotionally, and I cannot afford to escape to a tropical destination, I decided to create a SAD survival toolkit this winter. Before I share what is in my SAD toolkit, I would like to begin with a brief introduction of SAD.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a milder form of depression that appears around fall when the days start to get shorter and lasts through the winter.  The seasonal changes can affect our sense of well-being. People who suffer from SAD tend to notice their mental health deteriorate as the winter season approaches.

Some symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feeling sleepy, tired, or lethargic all the time
  • Having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
  • Change of appetite, particularly more cravings for sugary and starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling sad, guilty or down on yourself
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling irritable, tense and/or stressed
  • Avoidance of people or activities you once used to enjoy
  • Loss of interest in sex and other physical contacts

It is very important not to diagnose yourself without speaking to your doctor because there may be other causes for these symptoms. And even if it does turn out to be depression, it may not be the SAD form of depression.

READ MORESeasonal Affective Disorder – CMHABC

My personal toolkit to survive SAD

Eat healing foods + exercise

What we eat not only affects our physical health but it also impacts our mental health and wellbeing. It is important that we nourish our body with healthy and nutritional foods, and avoid consuming high levels of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, and processed food products.

My diet is not perfect by any means. I mostly try to avoid sugary drinks, fast food, and snacking on junk. My ideal diet, however, is following the Healing Foods Diet, which consists of eating equal amounts of clean protein sources, healthy fats, and low glycemic carbohydrates in the forms of fruits and vegetables.

Healing Diet Shopping List

It is also very important to incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle, which helps to relieve stress, increase energy and boost our mental well-being. I personally enjoy going for fitness classes, where I get to also meet and interact with people.

Create and maintain a daily routine

Having structure and routine is so important for our mental well-being. Routine helps us sustain healthy habits, such as getting a good nights sleep by waking up and going to bed at the same time each day,  It may sound boring and predictable, but having a dependable, reliable pattern to our daily activities is good for the soul.

Cultivating consistent daily routine can help us avoid anxiety and stress, and promote calmness and happiness as we go about our days.

READ: 12 Ideas for Establishing a Calming Routine

Cultivate winter hobbies

Winter hobbies are hobbies that don’t require leaving your house, and not even your bed. Winter is the perfect time to hibernate and regroup, so napping is a perfectly acceptable winter hobby.

My favorite winter activity is making delicious tea, putting on classical jazz playlist, on Spotify, and reading a good book.

What are some other indoor hobbies to enjoy during winter? 

Spend more time outdoors during the day, especially when it’s sunny

A sunny day in winter is so beautiful.

While it’s hard to get myself to go for a walk, I try to savor any excuse that forces me to be outdoors and catch some rays. Instead of focusing on how cold it is, I try to remind myself that I’m only outside for a few minutes so might as well enjoy the scenery of a sunny winter day.

Daydream about the good summer days 

If all fails, there is always summer around the corner.

In the meantime, I like looking through pictures from summer and soaking in the feelings that good memories bring. This helps me look forward to the warmer months and the fun times that are, surely, to come.

Kayaking somewhere in Michigan | Summer ’18 

Dear Summer, 

Please come back soon. 

Sincerely Yours,
SAD Victim

What are some creative and innovative ways to deal with SAD and maintain our mental wellness?

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