It's February. If you're like us, you're probably feeling Cabin Fever. Cabin Fever has a lot of names, Seasonal Affective Disorder, The Winter Blues, Seasonal Depression, but no matter what you call it, it's not a pleasant experience. Seasonal Affective Disorder isn't just annoying, it also affects your quality of life.
Some symptoms of Cabin Fever are:
irregular sleep patterns, including sleepiness or sleeplessness
difficulty waking up
distrust of people around you
lack of patience
persistent sadness or depression
Luckily there are lifestyle changes that can help mitigate the effects of Seasonal Depression and help you stay sane during the winter months.
During the cold winter months it can be tempting to sit under a cozy blanket all day. But even though it feels great in the moment, sitting doesn't benefit us much when it comes to fending off the winter blues. Physical activity will not only help you release all the pent up energy, but will release those happy hormones in your brain.
Sometimes there are days on end when Michigan doesn't see any sunlight. This only adds to the feeling of isolation or depression. If you're experiencing feelings of hopelessness or find yourself sleeping to much, you might be a good candidate for light therapy. Light Therapy typically mimic natural sunlight to give your brain similar effects as sunlight. You can buy a light box online without a prescription. We also have light therapy here at ZENlightenment that is a part of our sauna.
Get Outdoors Even if it's Just for 5 minutes
The last thing most of us want to do when it's cold is go outside. But getting outside in the sun and fresh air is good for our mental health especially when the days are shorter. Bundle up and get outside even if it's just to take the trash out. If it's dangerously cold outside, sitting or stretching near a window with plenty of sunlight is a nice alternative.
Find a Hobby that Keeps Your Brain Busy
Don't get me wrong having a day to sit on the couch and mindlessly watch TV can be great. But if you are spending most of your free time doing that it can get exhausting. Your brain needs stimulation to deal with the feelings of isolation that often occur in the winter.
Some hobbies to try:
Learn a new language
Sudoku/ Word Search/ Crossword
Knitting or crocheting
learning a new instrument
Keep a Balanced Diet
In the winter our bodies are hardwired to crave comfort foods. And while there's nothing wrong with indulging in your favorite pasta or hitting that drive-thru every once in a while, doing so everyday can be detrimental to our mental health. A poor diet leads to low energy which just exacerbates the feeling of cabin fever. Aim to eat a healthy diet with limited unhealthy fats and sugars. Be sure to drink enough water as well.
Get Enough (and Quality) Sleep
So much of our quality of life is connected to sleep. Not only do you need to make sure that you are getting enough sleep, but the quality of sleep is equally important. Most adults need 6-10 hours of sleep a night. While getting enough sleep is important, sleep quality is equally if not more important. Sleep Quality takes into account how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up, and how many minutes you spend in bed awake each night. If you find yourself not having quality sleep, consider your sleep hygiene and bedtime routine. Sometime a simple change does the trick. If that doesn't work consider getting checked for sleep apnea.
While these tips have been shown to help with seasonal depression, these are a cure all. If you are experiencing persistent sadness or feelings that you want to harm yourself or someone else, please seek out medical attention.