What do I do if I have the winter blues?

As the temperatures drops and the days get shorter, you may be struggling to get things done, and eating/sleeping more or less than usual.

Why is this happening to me?

Your body has an internal clock, called your circadian rhythm, which depends on light to tell it when to sleep. During the winter, your circadian rhythm may get offbeat because there’s less sunlight, making you feel drowsy during the day.

The cold also keeps people indoors. When there’s nothing to do, you may eat more out of boredom, or just call it a day and go to bed early.

A number of factors could be causing you to feel sad during the winter. You may be stressed because you’re not getting enough exercise, spending more money in the holiday season, or have fewer social engagements.

What are the symptoms?

Everyone may get a little down during winter and hibernate. But there’s a difference between feeling low sometimes versus feeling chronically depressed.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a severe mood change that occurs usually during late fall and winter and lessens by summer. You may have seasonal depression if you:

  • Feel sad, bored or more irritable than usual

  • Need more sleep

  • Feel too tired to do anything or hang out with anyone

  • Have food cravings, especially for carbs (e.g., sweets, pasta, rice, bread, etc.)

  • Lose interest in things you normally like

How do I get better?

If the colder months are causing you to feel down, there are a number of things you can try to lift your mood.

First, try having some more discipline in your life. Sleep earlier and get up with the sun so you can maximize how much sunlight you get. Try going to the gym regularly, even if it’s just a light jog for a few minutes. Regularize your eating habits, and stay away from carbs. Instead, try some fruit for breakfast, and salads for lunch.

Socializing is also important, but don’t overextend yourself. Be honest and open with your friends and family about what you’re going through, and what you need from them. People who love you truly will understand that you need to take care of yourself, and will offer to help.

If you’re struggling to keep up with even this, and your sadness is becoming unbearable, it may be time to talk to your doctor about what other options you have. They may recommend counseling or prescribe you antidepressants. Make sure to read our article on where to find mental health help.  

People who suffer from SAD often try light therapy with a light box that mimics natural sunlight. It’s meant to be used when you wake up for about half an hour and it can lessen the symptoms of SAD.

Always remember, you are not alone!