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Coping With SAD: 5 Tips

Updated on October 3, 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can really suck. For some it’s a mild annoyance, for others, it’s the equivalent of severe clinical depression. I guess mine falls somewhere in the middle – which makes it manageable, thank God – but if I don’t stay on top of it, it can get pretty bad.

I live in a country where much of the winter averages 6 hours of daylight, and the hours of sunlight are very gray most of the time. This is due to pollution, for the most part, and pretty much makes you feel like you’re living in darkness most of the time. Interesting to note, until I came to this country, I was bona fide night owl. I spent most of my life sleeping until 2 or 3 pm and going to bed at dawn. The sun exposure I got was more than sufficient.

I don’t know if my body has changed, or if living closer to the North Pole has something to with it, but my days of being able to wake up mid-day are gone -- and these are the tips I use to cope with it. It's not a cure, but it's enough to ensure I don't need medication or some kind of therapy.

Five Coping Mechanisms

  1. Sleep with your bedroom curtains at least partially open Sleeping with your curtains drawn puts you in an artificially darkened room. You are already having trouble with the natural light source sucking, do not add to that by making your psyche feel completely blocked from the outside world.

  2. Go outside at mid-day -- It doesn’t have to be noon, but it should be between 11 and 3. And you should stay out there for 10-30 min. If you’re working in an office, do it on your lunch break. Just make sure you do it. It makes a HUGE difference. Even if it’s raining, go outside – just stand somewhere the rain won’t get you, cos that can suck, too.

  3. Use your lights -- They can be energy savers, just make sure they are on and sufficiently lighting the room you are in. It will really help. And yes, I mean during the day.

  4. Do not sleep past sunrise -- If this means you have to go to bed early, so be it. It’s a far better alternative to oversleeping (which one can be prone to do, once they've realized they've slept through part of the day's sunlight allowance) and staying in bed a full day because you’ve become so depressed and lethargic you can’t move.

  5. No caffeine after 2pm -- I am not a big coffee drinker, but I do use it in the winter months to counter SAD lethargy. If you drink coffee, limit yourself to 3 cups max, and don’t have any after 2 pm – you don’t need to give your body a reason to want to stay up all night.

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