Seasonal Affective Disorder affects more 3 million Americans every year, but the reality is that we are all impacted by the long nights and the lack of Vitamin D we receive in winter. Living in Pennsylvania, it gets very cold in January and February, which means I am more reluctant to go outside- something that brought me so much joy during the summer months. And of course, the fact that we are a year into a global pandemic and unable (not supposed to!) interact with many of the people we usually see during the holidays and on a daily basis, makes the winter months seem even longer.
I actually have a Vitamin D insuffiency, so I often feel exaggerated effects of this during the winter. To combat this, I’ve spent the past few years developing daily habits that keep me grounded during the cold season.
- Eating Breakfast
This may seem obvious to most people, but I don’t eat breakfast all year round. I listen to my body, which is usually not hungry when I first wake up. In the summer, this doesn’t bother me (probably because I get more energy from the sun during those months), but in the winter I feel lethargic if I miss breakfast. For breakfast I like to switch it up, but I usually have some variation of fruit and granola with yogurt or oatmeal. If I’m going to force myself to eat in the morning, it might as well be something healthy and something that I actually enjoy eating.
2. Swapping out Coffee for Tea or Decaf
Coming from someone who used to drink five cups of coffee a day….please find an alternative. Trust me when I say I am still a caffeine addict, I just no longer drink more than one or two cups per day, and usually not at night. I’m not sure if I was just ignoring my body or I was immune to the side effects of over-caffeinating, but I can no longer drink more than two cups without feeling jittery. Instead, I’ve switched to tea and matcha, which are still caffeinated but don’t make me crash.
3. Planning Something you Enjoy
During the winter, I like to make plans a bit ahead of time. If something is last minute, I’m much more likely to say no, especially if it’s cold outside. Planning ahead also gives me something to look forward to for a couple days. Even if it’s as simple as getting coffee with a friend or making my favorite food, it brings me a little serotonin.
4. Enjoying Time Indoors
My roommate and I have taken up water-coloring this winter. It’s literally just for fun, not for school, not for work, and not for clout (although I do hope my skills improve). It’s basically our healthy alternative for going out, since that’s not an option this year. It’s been fun to learn and is good for my mental health, as opposed to mindlessly scrolling on my phone.
I’ve never been one for cooking, although I have loved to bake with my mom since I was little. I’ve recently been baking again and I find it so relaxing. I try to use healthy-ish recipes to make little snacks for the week. As for cooking, I’ve slowly been improving thanks to Tiktok videos and my Betty Crocker book.
In addition to these habits, I do take Vitamin D supplements and try to incorporate as much sunlight into my day as possible. Everyone’s body is unique and what works for me may not work for everyone. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy winter!