Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By Quinn Nystrom, MS

Sun, flowers, travel, beach parties, and lazy evenings around the backyard campfire are all the makings of a magical summer. The days and weeks between May and August every year are filled with outside time, yummy picnics, hiking, lightweight clothing, and water fun. As always, time marches forward and cooler temps and heavier clothes are inevitable.

Though the bright reds, yellows, and oranges of the fall bring joy, for some people the changes in nature also signal the beginning of the weeks and months of impending sadness and lethargy that come along with shorter days and colder weather. Those affected of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) experience an annual downturn into depression-like feelings beginning in the fall (September through November) and lasting into early spring (March through May). These feelings of hopelessness and isolation can put a damper on any activities we may have planned for the fall and winter months.

And trust me, this “blue mood” time of year is not “all in your head” either. S.A.D. is similar to clinical depression and is defined as a reoccurring pattern of change in mood that is affiliated with the changing of the seasons. Many doctors describe this disorder as a low-grade depression that tends to flare during certain times of the year. Fall and winter seem to be the time when most people experience S.A.D. simply because the days are shorter (less sunlight) and we are indoors and isolated more due to the colder weather conditions.

So how do we prepare for a time that will be “darker” for us both literally and figuratively? The formula is very doable: snuggle in, plan, and be kind to ourselves. So as the temps dip low and the leaves gently float to the ground, now is a great time to prepare a personal “S.A.D. Checklist” of tactics, tools, and resources.

Snuggle In and Do Some Hygge-ing: Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Danish word that means something along the lines of enjoying cozy intimacy and feeling content in the moment. It’s about exploring and celebrating daily luxuries and connecting mindfully with the people around you. It’s about comfort and kinship and coziness.

Hygge Checklist for Beginners:

• Turn off your Phone

• Turn on Soft Lights (twinkle lights are fantastic)

• Put on Warm Socks and Comfy Clothes

• Prepare some Hot Tea

• Light Candles (especially ones that smell nice)

• Snuggle into a Comfy Bed or Chair

• Crack open a Good Book

• Snuggle with a Furry Friend (optional)

Plan: During these months, eating right, including avoiding processed foods and excessive sugar, is more critical than ever. Plan to be outside more or schedule meet-ups with friends weekly. Creating a roadmap staying active and social will help to manage seasonal depression and work to help us remain strong and focused on our mental health.

Be Kind to YOU: Getting plenty of exercise may sound simple, but for many sufferers of S.A.D. this can be more difficult than it sounds. Exercise is critically important in reducing the symptoms of S.A.D., but it can be hard for those who are feeling down or blue to be motivated to move more. But even short, fifteen minute walks daily can help, as does extra activity at home.

Meditation has proven to be an effective way to manage stress and keep the symptoms of this seasonal disorder at bay. There are abundant resources on the web for relaxation techniques or meditation, and those people who try meditation experience great results and relief. The combination of all of these tools tends to help our patients get through those tough months.

Above all, keep in mind that summer will come back around again and the chillier months are just another moment in time. Hang on to the memories, and warm fuzzies of past summers and stay excited for the possibilities of the ones that are yet to come.