In stark contrast to equatorial parts of the world, where only about one percent of the population struggles with the issue, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects nearly 10% of Alaska’s population, ranking among the highest percentages ever recorded. The condition occurs when winter’s darkness takes hold, creating high levels of depression, anxiety, lethargy, and hopelessness.
One of the most effective ways to combat SAD is to invest in a light that replicates daylight. Known as “SAD lamps,” these extra-bright tools give your body the bright light of the natural sun and can significantly impact your mood. Healthcare professionals tend to encourage combining SAD lamp usage with therapy, medication, or both, depending on your unique circumstances. There are also changes you can implement in your day-to-day to help keep you above water.
Your best defense against SAD is a good offense. Build yourself a reliable schedule of healthy habits, and hold yourself to it. Do your best to catch whatever sunlight you can. Make sure to exercise regularly and get your heart rate up - even thirty minutes of physical activity a day can bolster your mood and leave you feeling refreshed. Explore your options for indoor sports and other forms of exercise, including yoga and home workouts. Try connecting with a personal trainer online. Whatever it takes to get your blood pumping.
You can build other activities that stimulate your mind and body into your routine as well. Buy a cookbook and commit to making something new each week. Learn a new skill, express yourself creatively, or start an art project or blog. Read a book you’ve been putting off by breaking it down into a chapter every other night. Most of all, keep your eye on the goal of personal wellness and take time each day to check in with yourself and do the things that make you happy.
Just as critical as following your routine is the need to give yourself kindness and grace. If you feel yourself slipping into a negative mindset, and exercise or hobbies won’t help, allow yourself to take some time off to reset. Indulge in a bubble bath, let yourself splurge on a tasty treat, or spend some time revisiting fond memories. Don’t answer stressful emails for an evening. Treat yourself the way you’d treat a struggling friend, and permit yourself to take a break without feeling guilty. Don’t think of it as wasting time; think of it as investing in your future stability.
Be aware that there’s a fine line between self-care and staying in bed for a week because the “winter blues” are too strong. As much as you take care of yourself, be honest about how you’re handling things day-to-day. If it seems like self-care isn’t helping, don’t wait to reach out to friends, family, a therapist, or other sources of support who can try to lift you before you sink any further.
When you’re in a dark place (in more ways than one), isolation is the most significant factor working against you. It’s much easier for depression, anxiety, and despair to take over if you’re alone with your thoughts. These are chemical processes that you may not be equipped to manage on your own. One of the best things you can do is to reach out to your support system of friends, family, and trusted professionals for some human contact. Opening up about your negative thoughts can ease your mind’s burden by sharing it with others, who can provide comfort and encouragement when you can’t give those things to yourself.
One dependable way to invest in your social support is to build social habits into your routine. Join a virtual book club, form a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, or make a point to catch up with an old friend at the same time each week. Small interactions add up, and even a few short check-ins per week can make the difference for your mood and vitality.
If it seems like things are piling up and you’re not sure where to find healthy outlets for stress, reach out to professional help. Connecting with a therapist can work wonders, both when releasing pent-up negativity and forming a dependable schedule for yourself. A therapist can talk you through your emotional problems and suggest changes to your lifestyle to meet your needs better. They can also prevent you from turning to unhealthy outlets, like substance abuse or other forms of destructive behavior.
If you could use more help than a single connection to a therapist, reach out to a treatment center or program specializing in mental health and wellness. Even if you aren’t struggling with addiction, recovery centers offer comprehensive services for people who want to get back on their feet. A treatment center can connect you with a wide variety of personal resources, discuss medications, teach you self-care methods, and network you with a community of people who support one another through trying times.
It doesn’t get much darker than an Alaskan winter, and there’s no shame in reaching out for support when it gets to be overwhelming. Your mental health is vital to your overall well-being; putting in the work to take care of yourself is an investment in your future happiness. At SokyaHealth, we know that your environment and the state of the world can affect your mental health. That’s precisely why we’re available to provide expert resources for treating your mental health and guiding you back into a position where you can succeed on your own. We offer same-day appointments and telehealth services to make your treatment as accessible as possible. From Seasonal AffectiveDisorder to addiction and recovery, we provide total wellness solutions for every aspect of your life affected by the problems you’re facing. Don’t think you have to suffer in silence - you have professionals on your side to help you through whatever life throws at you. For more information, call (866) 657-6592.