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Stress Relief Strategies for the Winter Months

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Donna Stark

Stress Relief in the Winter

While the colder months usher in a number of festive celebrations and seasonal delights, not everyone revels in the joy they bring. For some individuals, the fall and winter seasons open the doors for two very unwelcome guests. Guests who are cloaked in darkness and who love to disrupt not only your days but your joy and peace as well.

If you get the sensation that you feel a little different or that your moods seem off during the winter months, it’s not your imagination. It could be that seasonal affective disorder and chronic stress have knocked at your door and let themselves into the sanctuary of your home.

How Prominent Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects 5 percent of adults in the country. That may not seem like a large number to some, but when one considers that it translates to nearly 17 million people, the impact of SAD seems to hit a little harder. And unfortunately for women and those who live far from the equator, they are the ones getting hit the most.

SAD is a type of depression that can last for months. It typically starts in late fall or early winter and resolves in the spring or summer. The reduced exposure to sunlight during this time and the disruption to an individual's natural circadian rhythm can lead to the symptoms of this condition. Those who suffer from SAD tend to feel overwhelmed with their daily life and may experience significant changes in their physical and mental health.

Because seasonal affective disorder occurs during this colder and darker time of year, many people characterize it as “the winter blues,” but SAD is much more than a bout of the blues. Its symptoms can be distressing and extremely debilitating to deal with. Here are just a few of them.

  • Feelings of sadness most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low energy
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Weight gain and overeating
  • Difficulty with concentration and focus
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches and illness
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies

While these symptoms can be difficult to manage and live with, the good news is that there are some beneficial treatments available. If you or someone you know feels like harming themselves, reach out to the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or by dialing 988.

How is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated?

Because the nature and severity of symptoms of SAD can vary from one individual to the next, it is crucial to seek the advice and guidance of a healthcare professional for treatment. Light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and prescription medications are typically the frontline treatments for seasonal affective disorder, but if your symptoms are mild, there are some things you can try for yourself. These include:

  • Getting as much natural sunlight as possible
  • Sitting near windows while indoors
  • Exercising every day, particularly outdoors and in daylight
  • Consuming a healthy and balanced diet
  • Spending time with others
  • Reducing stress levels

Taking the proper steps to reduce stress and prioritize stress management is one of the most important things you can do, especially since stress has the potential to exacerbate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

Is Stress Greater During the Winter Months?

For many, the winter months are a time for joyous celebrations and meaningful family get-togethers, but for others, they’re a time to hibernate. That’s because seasonal stressors, coupled with regular daily stressors, can make life exceptionally difficult to manage. And if a person is already dealing with seasonal affective disorder, stress can make life seem nearly impossible.

Similar to SAD, stress tends to increase during the winter months, but it does so for different reasons. Financial strain, time constraints at work, obligations to friends and family, and the desire to make everyone happy often become the catapult to an individual’s downward spiral, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can help. Here are some simple stress relievers that may impact your days for the better and improve your overall well-being in the process.

  • Deep breathing - Deep breathing exercises are one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. Start by taking slow, deep breaths, breathing in your nose and out your mouth. Continue doing so for several minutes.
  • Daily exercise - When you experience stress, start moving! Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can make an incredible impact on how you feel.
  • Meaningful connections - Try not to isolate yourself. Being around loved ones or engaging in some of your favorite activities may help minimize symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  • Nighttime routine - Ending the day on a good note is just as important as starting on one. Try to include calming activities in your nightly routine, such as enjoying a cup of tea, taking a bath, or reading a book.

In addition to the suggestions listed above, consider establishing routine chiropractic care in your life. Chiropractic care is an all-natural approach that may help minimize the effects of stress and anxiety on your body.

How Does Chiropractic Treatment Help With Stress?

There are many ways one can manage overall stress, but one of the most effective is to improve the function of your nervous system through chiropractic care at The Joint Chiropractic. The chiropractic adjustments you receive will place your spine in proper alignment. This helps remove nerve interference and reduces much of the physical stress in your body. Chiropractic care may also help manage many of the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety by relieving pain, improving your sleep and overall quality of life. If you would like to learn more, visit your local chiropractors at The Joint Chiropractic today.

Surviving the Winter Blues

As winter arrives, it’s important to know who is knocking at your door. Seasonal affective disorder and extra stress can affect how you feel and change your perceptions of life. Taking care of yourself, connecting with friends, family, and medical professionals, and finding ways to unwind without totally isolating yourself can make a huge difference in how you feel. Even though winter can be exceptionally challenging, spring is right around the corner!

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