Beat The Winter Blues: 6 Ways To Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Laurel Vozely

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Unless you're like me, and you tend to feel physically and emotionally deflated come December. It's dark by 5 pm, and it doesn't help all forms of media are shouting at me to snuggle up with my non-existent significant other.

We're all aware the holidays gift us with stress, loneliness or depression along with the merriment. But that's just the emotional side of the holiday table.

This time of year also induces physical changes in our bodies that contribute to an overall feeling of "Bah humbug!"

However, instead of spending this quarter of the year in the doldrums — and the remaining three-quarters in dread — you can follow some tips to make this winter easier to skate through.

It turns out there's a better name for the Scrooge-like feeling. It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and if you're in your 20s (like me), you're a prime target.

Psychology Today defines the appropriately-abbreviated disorder, "SAD," as the onset of depressive symptoms that occur when sunlight exposure is reduced. The symptoms melt away when the sun returns to its bright and warming state.

While some may not believe the sun has much influence on mood, it truly affects one's lifestyle, which in turn, affects one's happiness.

Use these six tips to lift your mood throughout the winter months:

1. Invest in Vitamin D supplements.

Let's talk about the sun for a second. Yes, it makes flowers grow, but it also provides our bodies with Vitamin D, which is used as treatment for depression.

Unfortunately, Vitamin D deficiency is quite common.

I'm not a philosopher, but if the sun gives us Vitamin D, which helps depressive symptoms, then a lack of sunlight throughout the day means a lack of Vitamin D.

Investing in supplements during this time of the year is a great way to keep this from happening to you.

2. Get creative with in-home workouts.

We all know winter weight gain is real, but it might not be due to the reasons you think.

Yes, this time of year doesn't lack decadent treats. But if you work into the late afternoon (like me), you'll understand how that evening neighborhood run just isn't feasible anymore.

Don't even try to tell me to set the alarm for an early morning run. It's not happening.

It isn't just about weight gain, though; it's about mood. Exercise gives us those happy, bouncy endorphins that make each of us feel like Wonder Woman.

So naturally, if we limit our exercise, we cut out the post-workout high.

Look, if you're energized enough after work to drive out to the gym, all power to you. I respect and admire you more than you'll ever know.

However, if you're not, it's okay to be honest with yourself and make it work. Invest in some free weights, a medicine ball and a couple of workout DVDs, and have at it.

A fun DVD will give you that daily cardio you need.

Free weights will give your arms some love. The medicine ball can provide resistance for those abdominal twists.

Even try some shower squats while the conditioner is in. (It really works.)

3. Wake up at a respectable time.

Sleeping in until noon? Getting dinner started at 8 pm?

Why yes, I am!

But I shouldn't, and neither should you. With the sun coming up between 5 am and 6 am and setting by 5 pm, a late wake-up severely impedes your time with it. (Remember our talk about Vitamin D? Yeah, you need it.)

It would be hypocritical of me to tell you not to sleep in, but a healthy 9 am rise will open up a few additional hours to see the sun before it sets.

Get your hippie on and be one with nature. It's good for the soul.

4. Have dinner when the sun goes down.

I miss those late summer dinners as much as you do, but we have to adapt.

You'll find this is actually better for you in the long run, and it helps a ton with digestion and metabolism.

A later dinner flirts with a later bedtime, which mean you'll be oversleeping.

5. Let there be light.

Do you work inside during the prime, sunny hours of the day?

Yeah, it may be dark and dismal outside when you get home, but it can be all sunshine and lollipops inside. Even an artificial replication of the sun can put a pep in your step, as your body will respond to it similarly.

6. Treat yo'self!

Presents don't just have to be for others. Spoil yourself, date yourself and give yourself those daily affirmations your heart needs to get through these few months.

It's only a period of time, and you will get through it.

Of course, if you need someone to talk to, or if your depression is becoming harmful to yourself or others, do not be ashamed. Please contact the 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-800-479-3339.

The sun will rise again. But until then, get your rhythm right inside.