Ask The Fitness Jewell: How Do I Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Don't succumb to seasonal affective disorder. Here are 8 ways to arm yourself against the winter blues so you can enjoy the snowy season!


I've started the New Year with a bang, but now the winter weather has gotten the best of me! I'm feeling lethargic, craving all kinds of food, and my motivation has dropped to zero. What can I do to beat the winter blues?

It's true: The cold, cloudy days and long, dreary nights of winter can be depressing. The abnormal polar temperatures this winter have made it feel even worse than usual! If you've been struggling through the last month or so, you're not alone. Millions of people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Symptoms of SAD can be low energy, weight gain, appetite changes, cravings for sweet foods, fatigue, sleep problems, low sex drive, poor concentration, anxiety, and even irritability. For many, many people, these symptoms are a yearly battle. We can't all pack up and move to Hawaii, so what do we do about them?

We fight them, of course! Here are eight ways you can arm your transformation against SAD in the remaining winter months and meet spring with a smile.


Be Proactive

Winter comes every year. Don't let it surprise you! If the winter blues got the best of you last year, reflect on and make note of what impacted you most. Identify those obstacles and formulate your plan to make sure you knock them down and stay on track this year.


Get Natural Light

Sure, winter days can be tedious at times, but you can still get outside and expose yourself to some natural sunlight for a few minutes each day. Even if it's cloudy, the natural light will do you good. If weather doesn't permit a quick walk or lunch outside, you can always grab a bit of extra light by sitting in the most light-filled room in your house. It doesn't take an hour of sunbathing to soak up some vitamin D. Just a few minutes enjoying the natural light will do!


Do An Early-Morning Workout

Set the alarm for 20-30 minutes earlier than you normally would and start your day with a mini workout right in your living room! Exercising in the morning helps to set the tone for the day and will hit you with a flood of endorphins.

Back when I lived in a much colder city, this little trick helped me stay positive and energetic more times than I can count. Get your heart rate up with anything from jumping rope, to jumping jacks, to running in place, to stretching. Those 10 or 20 minutes of movement will make a world of difference in your attitude.


Try Something New

If your motivation is waning and you're bored of your normal exercise regimen, find something new to do! Head to a yoga class, a fun group exercise class, or hit up a rock-climbing gym for an unconventional workout.

You can also let the snowy weather work in your favor. Try skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing for some natural light and good exercise. Whatever you choose to try will help reignite your motivation so you can get back to pursuing your goals!


Skype date

This might sound silly, but it works! If the weather prevents you from hitting the gym, schedule a date with your workout partner or one of your friends for an at-home workout! Clear a spot in your living room, grab your dumbbells, a jump rope, and your laptop for a new challenge. Not only will this workout help you stay accountable for your fitness, but it's a fun way to mix up your normal exercise regimen.


Try new recipes

Don't fall into the cold weather comfort food trap. Hot cocoa and pot pies might make you feel better for a few minutes, but they'll just end up hurting you in the long run. Try healthy spins on old favorites like protein cookies or muscle-building breakfasts. You'll still get to enjoy food which tastes great, but you'll get the additional benefit of knowing you're getting the nutrition you need to achieve your fitness goals!


Limit Caffeine and alcohol

Excessive caffeine may give you a jolt of energy, but it can also cause anxiety. Enjoy your morning cup of coffee and your pre-workout drink, but try not to go beyond that. Instead, reach for some herbal or green tea. You'll get that nice, cozy feeling without risking the anxious jitters.

The same rule applies to alcohol. A hot toddy (or three) might sound good when you're next to a warm fire, but bear in mind that alcohol is a depressant which could exacerbate your bad mood. Make healthier choices and you'll feel the difference in your mood and outlook.

Reach for some herbal or green tea. You'll get that nice, cozy feeling without risking the anxious jitters.

See a Doctor

If your symptoms worsen, become more than just an irritation, and start to feel overwhelming, seek guidance from a professional. Your health and happiness should have priority in your life. So make sure you do all you can to stay that way!