It’s that time of year; awesome sales, no more humidity, and that feeling that the holiday spirit is right around the corner.
But as the days get shorter and you change your wardrobe, you may also start to notice a change in your mood and energy, and some may feel like their sex life flies south. Since the changes can be gradual, sometimes you don’t notice the changes until someone close to you points them out or your life starts to feel unmanageable.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a syndrome listed in the DSM-IV where the sufferer experiences a dramatic shift in functioning due to changing seasons. But regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with SAD or not, we all experience a shift in our functioning when the seasons change. The good news is that you do have some control, so it’s important that you are aware of your patterns so that you can find ways to be preventative- instead of reactionary- in coping with the symptoms.
Symptoms of Fall and Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder include:
- Loss of libido, social withdrawal, relationship problems, anxiety, and depression
- Lack of energy; increased fatigue, increased need for sleep, and lethargy
- Increased appetite, increased cravings for sugar and carbs, and possible weight gain
- Difficulty with focusing or concentrating on tasks
- An increase in the symptoms of PMS symptoms
(If you feel that you experience these symptoms and it wreaks havoc on your life, speak with a mental health professional to have a comprehensive assessment before you diagnose yourself and freak out
So what are some ways you can minimize the sneaky onset of winter blues and keep your libido up?
See the Light: Waking up when it’s still dark and having dusk hit in the late afternoon robs you of exposure to natural sunlight, which impacts your mood, sleep, and vitamin D production. Make sure to get outside when it’s light- even if it’s just for a few minutes to run an errand, and don’t forget that sun screen is still necessary even when it’s cold or cloudy outside.
Don’t Stop Moving: The treadmill may be very useful for hanging clothes, but it’s even more useful when it’s being used for exercise. Maintaining regular workouts is important for good health and the endorphins make it great for coping with anxiety and depression. Not to mention that many people find that moderate exercise increases their libido and arousal, which can decrease as it gets cold.
Maintain Status Quo: Don’t let the cold weather lead you to ditch the activities that make you feel comfortable in your body. If a weekly mani/pedi gives you a boost, don’t give it up just because sandal season is over. The same goes for waxing, shaving, and hair maintenance. Winter is no excuse to neglect having a beauty regiment; if anything, it becomes even more relevant during the months where you may be feeling un-sexy.
Keep in Touch: Make sure to pencil in time to hang out with friends and family. Social interaction and relationships keep us feeling connected to others and can combat the feelings of isolation that creep up. Ask a friend to be a walking partner, join a book group, schedule a girls’ night out—don’t let your social life be reduced to writing Facebook wallposts.
You Are What You Eat: Diet plays a huge role in mood and functioning. Stick to whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and make sure to stay hydrated. Watch the portion size on carbs that may put you out; chocolate, cookies, cake, ice cream, bread, pastas. The average American gains about ten pounds during the holiday season- if you’ve struggled with it in the past and hate feeling the surrendering descent of your panty-hose rolling down your stomach, be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t have in moderation and brainstorm ways to stick to it.
Fight the Hibernation Mode: Enjoy wearing those cozy pajamas, but not from wake-up to bedtime. Even if you plan to be home all day, make a point to change out of the clothes you slept in into other comfortable clothes-you’ll feel more like a person. Try to limit the hours you spend watching TV and surfing the web, especially late at night when you should be hitting the sack. Look for productive activities to do in your house; learn a new craft, a new language, or start putting that pile of pictures into albums (or at least get them developed).
Remember that sex is a basic need just like air, food, and shelter, and small lifestyle accommodations can go a long way for your libido. Sit for a few moments and think about what seasonal changes means for your personal functioning and jot down some ideas on how you can adapt your lifestyle so that you feel grounded going in.
The more you understand your body and your emotional health, the more you can care for yourself accordingly and recognize when things seem off. With the right self-care, time-management, and creativity, you can experience the seasons changing not as a cause for fear and dread, but with anticipation for a truly wonderful time of the year.