If you tend to feel tired, sluggish, and sad during the winter months, you’re not alone. Researchers estimate that between 10 and 20 percent of people in the U.S. report increased fatigue, anxiety, and depression in the winter , when there are fewer hours of sunlight. While some of these people have milder symptoms, about 500,000 have symptoms severe enough to be classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Whether your winter blues are mild or severe, there are steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms and beat the blues.

Burn Some Calories for an Energy Boost

Exercise is one of the most effective things you can do on your own to alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and SAD. When you engage in physical activity, your brain releases endorphins – which you can think of as ‘feel-good chemicals’ – that elevate your mood and provide increased energy. It may seem counter-intuitive to go for a run when all you want to do is sleep, but the positive effects may surprise you. Even something as simple as taking a walk each day can provide a positive benefit. If you have access to an indoor pool at your local YMCA or other recreational center, even a leisurely swim for 30 minutes can burn a few hundred calories.

Seek the light

Winter means cold weather in many parts of the country, so people are more likely to spend most of their time indoors. However, spending some time outside each day when the sun is shining can help you to combat the symptoms of SAD, as the disorder is believed to be influenced by a lack of exposure to sunlight during the colder months. If spending time outside isn’t feasible, light therapy is another option. Light therapy makes use of a light box that emits light similar to sunlight, which elevates your serotonin levels. Using a light box or getting outside in the natural sunlight for 30 minutes each day can make a big impact on your mood and energy levels.

Cut Back on Sugar

The foods you eat can have a tremendous impact on your overall health and well-being. Most people know that consuming large amounts of sugar can widen your waistline, but did you know that sugar can also negatively impact your mental health? You might crave sugar when you’re feeling fatigued and in need of an energy boost, but the energy-producing effects of sugar are short-lived and followed by an unpleasant crash. Scientists believe that sugar can reduce your ability to effectively cope with stress, leaving you feeling anxious as well as drained. Cut back on the sugar and instead eat healthy meals packed with protein and fiber.

Engage in Social Activities

In the winter, it’s easy to hole yourself up in front of a cozy fireplace with a good book or a movie. Too much isolation can be detrimental to your mental health, however, so it’s important to stay socially active. While there may not be as many outdoor gatherings to attend, take the initiative to set up a regular monthly get-together with your friends and family. Plan a girls’ night out every few weeks to kick back with your closest friends and laugh a little. Find a winter hobby or activity such as volunteering that will keep you active and engaged. You might not feel like leaving the house, and you might be tempted to cancel your plans because you just don’t have the energy. If you make an effort to go in spite of being exhausted, you might find that after a few minutes of pleasant chatting with your friends, you have more energy than you thought. Plus, the benefits of laughter and friendship simply can’t be overstated when it comes to battling SAD. Coping with SAD is challenging, but with so many ways to help combat the symptoms and lift your spirits, you can take steps to beating SAD today. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, and fatigue in spite of your efforts, you should consult your health-care provider to discuss pharmaceutical treatments and therapy options that can help you beat SAD.

About Laura Baker

Laura Baker loves to work on everything from small crafts to DIY home renovations. She enjoys contributing to Learnfit, which provides tips on healthy living, eating, careers, and DIY projects.