If you're one of the many people who suffer from the winter blues, don't worry, you're not alone. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects around 3% of the population, which means around 30,000 people in the Albuquerque metro area are struggling with this disorder. It can affect people of any age, including children.
Since the symptoms of SAD are like many other conditions, it's vital for sufferers to visit their doctor before self-diagnosing. People who have bipolar disorder or are manic-depressive can be misdiagnosed with SAD because they might experience depression in the winter months. For this reason, the best practice is to get a professional diagnosis.
Some of the key symptoms of SAD are depression, sleep problems, lethargy, overeating, irritability, and feeling down and unsociable. Thankfully, there are many strategies that can help lessen these symptoms. However, what works for one person might not work for another. So don't give up if the first remedy you try doesn't work. Just keep trying.
1. Keep active. Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues.
2. Get outside. Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on brighter days. Inside your home, choose pale colors that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.
3. Keep warm. If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your GP for medical help. Being cold makes you more depressed. It's also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half.
Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees).
4. Eat healthily. A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
5. See the light. Some people find light therapy effective for seasonal depression. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a lightbox for up to two hours a day. Lightboxes give out very bright light at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting.
"Some people find that using a dawn simulator as well as a lightbox can enhance the beneficial effect," says Pavlovich, a registered nutritional therapist at Pavlovich Wellness.
6. Take up a new hobby. Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD, says Pavlovich. "It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal, or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on," she adds.
7. See your friends and family. Socializing is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Try to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while.
8. Talk it through. Talking treatments such as counseling, psychotherapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms. See your GP for information on what's available locally on the NHS and privately.
9. Join a support group. Sharing your experience with others who know what it's like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable. You can check out these groups online, or through your local Albuquerque community organizations.
10. Seek help. If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.
"Winter Blues" is a very real phenomenon, and Albuquerque residents are no exception. Be mindful that a lot of it can be "mind over matter", so keeping a positive frame of mind can also be beneficial, along with the tips listed above.