It’s cold. You don’t want to get out of bed. Lately you’ve been craving carbs. It’s hard to get motivated. You just want to hibernate!

Since this feeling comes on seasonally, you think, “It must be the winter blues!”

Maybe!  Twenty percent of people struggle to shake off those winter blues. But it could be more serious. It might be a certain type of depression that begins to peak in the fall and winter called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With this type of depression pattern, you feel better when spring arrives.

And you may be surprised to learn that SAD can also take a spring/summer pattern as well. Both the winter and summer seasonal types of depression have to do with peoples’ sensitivity to light–those who get too little light (the fall/winter pattern), and those who get too much light (the spring/summer pattern). Light impacts our sleep-wake cycle and when that cycle is impaired, depression can result.

So while more people get the winter blues, about 7% of people experience SAD. And SAD is tied to latitude–the farther north you live, the less light you get in the winter.

If you find yourself struggling, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Lift your shades and let the sunlight into your rooms.
  2. If it is bright outside, don’t wear sunglasses for part of the time. The eyes bring in light and help with mood regulation.
  3. Do outdoor activities that expose you to natural light.
  4. Consider trying a light box or dawn simulator (talk to your mental health provider about how these work and the protocol to follow). This helps many people.
  5. If you feel depressed after trying these things, you will need to see a health care professional and be treated for depression in more conventional ways.
  6. Symptoms of SAD can be confused with other medical conditions so make sure you have a physical exam and are properly diagnosed.
  7. Stay in the spiritual light as well–Psalm 27:1, says “The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” He is our anchor and hope.

By taking the proper action steps and asking for God’s help, it is possible to combat the winter blues and thrive during these cold winter months.

7 ways to fight the winter blues

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