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Tips to Beat the Winter Blues

For some, shorter days and colder weather can trigger feelings of sadness and fatigue, common symptoms of seasonal mood disorder or (SAD).   If you find yourself in a seasonal slump, try these tips from Special Tree’s Psych and Social Work team to help beat the winter blues.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that recurs seasonally.  Typically, us Michigan folks are more likely to experience seasonal depression during the winter months, when our internal body clocks shift due to decreased sunlight; the colder temps don’t make things any easier.  While some of us look forward to all that winter brings, others will feel like ‘tis the season to be melancholy.  

In addition to feeling sad and down most of the day, nearly every day, this condition also includes symptoms of low energy, sleeping much more than usual, overeating and craving carbs, weight gain, isolating from others, lack of interest in enjoyable activities, etc. In severe cases of depression, people may have thoughts about suicide. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is a wonderful resource for persons with thoughts about suicide or self-harming.

If any of the above symptoms sound familiar to you, here are some helpful tips for beating the winter blues:

  • Exercise – the more you move, the better you’ll feel
  • Go outside – being outdoors for as little as 5-10 mins a day will expose you to a good dose of natural light
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule – try to get 8 hours each night and no matter how cozy and warm your bed feels, avoid oversleeping
  • Maintain healthy eating – it is easy to stray away from healthy eating, especially during the holiday season (and ESPECIALLY when your dad makes the best cheesecakes ever); don’t deprive yourself of yummy food, but remember what our lovely STRS dieticians say: “Everything in moderation!”
  • Invest in a light therapy sunlamp or sunrise simulating alarm clock – research shows that light therapy can be very effective and these items can be purchased on
  • Surround yourself with supports – fight urges to isolate, and make plans with family and friends
  • Have fun – engage in both indoor and outdoor activities that bring you joy, try a new activity you’ve been thinking about doing all year or, if possible, take a vacation to a warmer climate and get a break from both work and winter weather
  • Consult a professional – whether you want to speak with your physician about your Vitamin D level, or seek out counseling for additional support, professionals are there to help