Cold and SAD: How I Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Just a few days ago, I woke up on the beach to 72 degree weather, white sand, and palm trees. This morning, I woke up to freezing temperatures, and while I was looking for a coat and shoes to take Charlie out, I was already grumbling internally about the cold.

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My attitude turned around as soon as I walked out of my door and saw the gorgeous display of leaves and the sunshine peaking through, but there’s something more than the cold weather that makes me miss the beach: SAD.

Even if you’re not familiar with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), most of us have experienced it at some point in our lives: weight gain, difficulty waking up in the morning, lack of energy…the “January blues.” I never really noticed it until last year, when I found myself with the worst bout that I can remember. I wanted to stay inside, wrap up in about fifty blankets, and eat sweets until the clouds rolled away and it was sunny and 75 outside.

I’ve spent plenty of time in the sun this spring and summer, but as winter gets closer, I’m eyeing tropical destinations where it never drops below 60 and flip flops are appropriate all year ‘round. Until I book the trip, though, read on for a few tips on how I combat seasonal affective disorder, and let me know if you have any tips in the comments below!

1. Move it!

Yoga and physical activity might not fix every problem, but they will help with a lot (and coconut oil solves the rest!), and SAD is no exception. I often find that, during the winter time, I want a slower flow, with longer holds and lots of floor poses, so I mix in yin and restorative yoga with my favorite vinyasas.

Our friends in the Nordic regions are perfect examples of how physical activity - and being outdoors - in the cold help boost your mood and keep you healthy and well during the long, dark winter months. By taking part in winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and hiking, we give our bodies the chance to move, sweat, and produce all those mood-boosting endorphins…not to mention increasing our Vitamin D intake. You can even try supplementing Vitamin D, to give your levels - and your mood - a boost.

2. Curb those cravings.

Sugar…my kryptonite. I love sugar: ice cream, cookies, cake, pastries, chocolate. You name it, I’ll eat it, and I’m probably already thinking about it. I’m hungry just writing this. It’s a serious problem. But my desire for sweets increases about ten thousand times in the winter, and while I do give in sometimes (and more often than I’d like to admit), the high is temporary, and the end result is a depression of positive neurotransmitter levels. Try avoiding sweets and filling up on whole foods, like stews, leafy greens, colorful veggies, and fruits like berries instead.

3. Sleep

The shorter days and longer nights can wreak havoc on an already helter-skelter sleeping pattern, but by sleeping less, we experience more of that “down and out” feeling. Make sure you keep your bedtime regular, wake up (and get up and get moving!) every morning, even if the sun’s not up with you, and try some relaxing techniques to help you wind down, like soaking in an epsom salt bath or meditating. You can check out my Easy Nighttime Routine for a few more ideas too!

4. Bundle up!

The only thing that makes me grumpier than being hungry is being cold, and I get cold easily, so when winter really takes a grip, I make sure to layer up: thermal leggings, jeans, thick socks and weatherproof boots, a long sleeve shirt under a thick sweater, scarf, gloves, and a coat. It might not be my outfit of choice (believe me, I’d much rather be wearing cut offs with my feet in the sand!), but staying warm improves my mood and helps my body not have to work so hard to stay warm. Plus, it is kind of like walking around in a blanket.

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Do you have any other tips to combat SAD? Let me know in the comments below!