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5 Ways to Combat the Winter Blues

*Please consult with your doctor before taking these tips. We are not licensed medical professionals

Millions of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) each winter, but those with a chronic illnesses are much more likely to be depressed or deal with conditions like SAD. While depression can affect one throughout the year, people are particularly prone to it when the day darkens early and the cold weather sets in. We also know that cold temperatures can worsen MS symptoms, so paying attention to this element of your life is extremely important.

Symptoms of SAD can include things like sleeping too much, increased fatigue, weight gain, decreased interest in social activities and other abnormal life patterns affected person.

Preparing to combat SAD in a pro-active way is the best way to rise above. While some may not technically be diagnosed with SAD specifically, they still feel "winter blues," longing for sunshine and fresh air. Here are a few ways to push back against this annual phenomenon.

  1. Daily Movement. You've heard it before -- exercise increases in endorphins, which contribute to higher levels of happiness. Even if your movement is restricted due to MS, there are options for you. Yoga for MS and ideas from folks like Dr. Gretchen Hawley, who focuses on MS physical therapy are the key.

  2. Proper Nutrition. Winter months make it easy to let go of healthy eating habits. Cookies and sweet concoctions are everywhere! You can definitely partake, but limit our intake and be sure you are getting those leafy greens, fruits and grains as well! Good nutrition is a primary component of whole body wellness.

  3. Light Therapy. The great thing about technology is we've come up with so may helpful devices for a variety of ailments, including SAD. Light therapy, using a bright therapy or phototherapy box can be helpful in relieving some symptoms, though they are not approved by the FDA and you should consult your doctor before purchasing one. Be sure to check out the considerations and concerns of light therapy before moving forward.

  4. Talk Therapy. If you aren't already seeing a therapist, now is a great time to start. Professional therapists can help you work through deep-seeded issues and get to the root of the problem, including during depressive episodes. They are good for all times in life, but particularly during tough, winter months.

  5. Medication. If you are already taking medication for depression or anxiety, speak with your doctor about your concerns for winter months. They may offer a higher dosage, but don't start taking more on your own. If you aren't currently on medication, but feel depression coming on, talk with your doctor about options.

  6. Relationship Building. It may sound obvious, but keeping up with friendships and family relationships is key to maintaining that happiness balance. Even if Zoom chats are the only option, prioritize those key relationships and stick to catch ups so isolation doesn't get the best of you.

  7. Stick to the Schedule. Structure can work wonders for combatting SAD. If you spend a lot of time at home, it's easy to wake up without a plan. Scheduling activities and purpose throughout helps create goalposts and satisfying routine, even if it's a simple as scheduling breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you are prone to experiencing SAD, you are not alone. We hope these tips help get you ahead of the game.

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