Are you done with winter? Are these long, dark and unnecessarily cold days giving you the Winter Blues? Well, have no fear. There is light at the end of the tunnel! Both figuratively and literally.

You don’t need a doctor or scientist to tell you it can be hard to keep your spirits up after months of being stuck indoors, due to snow and cold temperatures. Even if you are an outdoorsy winter person, the shortened days and lack of sunshine can still have an impact on your psyche. By this time of the year, the number of Midwesterners who don’t want warmer days are definitely dwindling day by day. But why is this?

While the Winter Blues are more of a general term and not a medical diagnosis, there are actual studies done on a regular basis as to why we feel the way we do during the winter months. Due to numerous reasons, some people are more affected by these shorter days and longer nights. SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is an actual diagnosis that doctors and scientists have been studying for decades. The difference between the Winter Blues and SAD are simply how severely your daily life is affected by your symptoms.

Do you find yourself feeling lethargic, hungry or sad? You’re not alone! It turns out sunlight plays a HUGE role in our natural daily cycle. Reduced sunlight throughout the winter can disrupt your circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock). This internal ‘clock’ responds to cues in your surroundings, especially light and darkness. Throughout the day, your brain sends signals to your body to help keep you awake and active. At night, the brain produces melatonin, which helps you sleep. Shortened daylight hours throughout the winter can alter this natural rhythm and lead to some major changes in your mood and habits.

So what types of therapy do doctors suggest for the Winter Blues or SAD? Light therapy! Have you ever walked by a window at home, the office or school and felt the sunlight on your face and immediately felt that rush of happiness throughout your body? Well, light therapy is like that. But you don’t need real sunlight! You can find light therapy boxes, or SAD lights, anywhere. Stop by your local Wal-Mart or shop from your phone or computer on Amazon. If that doesn’t work and you’re still not feeling up to par, there are other options.

If you are finding yourself unable to get through the day, reach out to someone. Don’t minimize your struggle. Sometimes even knowing others feel the same way can lift a huge burden off your shoulders. There is no reason to feel hopeless, worthless or irritable. There is help out there. Whether from a licensed doctor, a friend, family member or support group online, you are not alone. Your symptoms are not imaginary, and you deserve to be happy.

One major thing to remember when those Winter Blues start creeping up, is whatever terrible feeling you have at that moment – it won’t last forever. While it may feel like spring will never come, it will.

My two youngest boys and I played a fun game the other day, that I highly suggest. We all sat down at the computer and looked up the extended forecast for our area. We went all the way to June, and I will tell you that each of us felt much better afterwards. We were so excited to see the sun and higher temperatures that none of us even cared the digital thermometer in the car read -3°. We even laughed at it. In our minds we were enjoying that sunny 60° day at the end of April, only a little over a month away.

We are in the final stretch. The finish line is near, and we’ll be complaining about how hot it is in no time! Need a little extra pick-me-up these last few weeks of cold, snowy ice-filled days? Grab a light therapy box, stand by the window for a bit on those rare moments of increasing sunshine, remind yourself that your circadian rhythm will be back on track soon. Most of all, find comfort that the Winter Blues are real and it’s almost time to say goodbye!

 

Tess Abney is a freelance writer who was born and raised in the Quad Cities. She spends most of her time attempting to successfully raise three boys. In her free time, writing is her passion. Whether it is sharing local events and businesses with readers or sharing her thoughts on life, she finds comfort in the way words can bring people together.