How to Beat SAD and Get Your Creative Mojo Back
Once the excitement of the holiday season abates, many of us find the winter seems to drone on in an endless monologue of gray skies, slushy sidewalks and slippery-slow commutes to the office. Even making a run to the grocery store drains our energy when it requires bundling up and facing bitterly cold temperatures. Most people tend to feel a bit down as Old Man Winter starts to overstay his welcome, but for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), winter depression impacts all areas of life, including the workday.
SAD impacts those affected much the same way major depressive disorder does, but only occurs during certain months of the year. Symptoms of SAD include feeling depressed or listless most every day, losing interest in previously pleasurable activities, sleeping too much or developing insomnia, having lower energy levels and experiencing difficulty concentrating. For those of us in the creative and publishing industries, SAD often presents an additional frustrating symptom — writers’ block.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of SAD, try these techniques to revitalize your mojo.
Light Things Up
This go-to treatment prescribed by many psychiatrists busts winter blues by imitating the sunlight available during the months when days stretch longer. Specially designed lights mimic the effect of the sun, boosting moods without medication. You can find these treatment lights available on Amazon for relatively low prices, so pick up one for both home and office if you’re not fortunate enough to telecommute.
If waking up while the sky remains pitch black makes you want to duck back under the covers until April, consider investing in an alarm clock that gently brightens your room while awakening you. Such clocks replicate the natural brightening of the sky in the morning, making you feel as though you’re waking to sunshine and chirping birds instead of snow-laden clouds.
In addition, strive to get outdoors in winter sunlight whenever the weather permits. If your work schedule keeps you chained to your desk during daylight hours, speak with your editor about the need to take regular walk breaks outdoors to soak up the sun. Most employers happily permit this accommodation as it boosts productivity without costing them a dime.
Get a Bit Nutty
When you find yourself staring at a blank computer screen, unable to type a single word, consider taking a snack break and nosh on some nuts. Nuts contain high levels of both omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, nutrients vital to brain health. Magnesium boosts production of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters impacting mood. Enjoy your nuts straight up or incorporated into parfaits and other treats.
In addition to nuts, try dining on fatty fish like salmon and mackerel at least twice per week. Fish provide a lean protein source likewise rich in essential fatty acids. Pair it with a nice salad rich in dark, leafy greens for an added nutritional and mood boost.
Those following strict vegetarian or vegan diets may consider finding a humane farm and adding in one or two meat meals during the winter months. A Finnish study found that those following vegetarian diets were four times more likely to develop SAD than their carnivorous counterparts. A similar Dutch study likewise demonstrated a link between vegetarianism and SAD.
Take Your Vitamins
Exposure to harsh wintry elements takes a toll on the body and uses up a good amount of nutrition. Replenish your body by investing in a quality daily vitamin and mineral supplement.
Make sure the supplement you select contains a high amount of vitamin D. Humans usually generate vitamin D naturally with exposure to sunlight, and winters’ short days create a deficiency. Those with absorption issues, such as those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, may benefit more from sublingual vitamin D drops available at natural health food stores.
Try Scent-sational Mood Boosters
Aromatherapy can break blah moods as well as stimulate your creative juices by helping clear your mind. Just about every grocery store now offers essential oil diffusers and a variety of mood-boosting oil blends.
Some natural food stores contain essential oil blends specially designed to treat certain conditions such as depression. When creating your own unique blend, experiment with citrus scents to energize you and boost your creativity. Spritz a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oil on your pillow to help you sleep at night, especially if SAD has kept you tossing and turning.
Move Your Body
Exercise naturally boosts moods by releasing endorphins, chemicals in the body that lead to a sense of euphoria. So as tempting as it may seem, avoid skipping the gym.
Should the weather turn too inclement to safely exercise outdoors or drive to a fitness class, simply turn to YouTube and search for free workout videos, or subscribe to a fitness streaming service such as Daily Burn. Alternately, crank up your favorite jams and dance around your living room for a half hour or so.
Short bursts of exercise help you push through the dreaded writer’s block. When the words just won’t flow, get up instead of staring at the screen. Take a short, brisk walk if weather permits, or perform some jumping jacks and squats to get the blood flowing to your brain.
Explore Employee Assistance
When natural methods fail to sufficiently lift your spirits, explore the benefits available through your employer. Many companies offer assistance programs that provide employees with low- or no-cost counseling and mental health services. Those with medical coverage may contact their insurance for a list of psychiatrists in their area, as short-term doses of anti-depressant medications can help alleviate severe forms of SAD.
No one except Frosty really enjoys a seemingly endless winter, but those with SAD can feel like their creativity flew south with the geese. By using a combination of natural approaches and western medicine, writers can alleviate the cold-weather doldrums and bring fresh, new life to their creative endeavors.
About Jennifer Landis
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, and healthy living blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She loves yoga, distance running, peanut butter, and spending the small amount of free time she has watching Netflix with her husband.