Lethargic, lazy, listless. If you can relate to any of those right now you're not alone. The winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder has a way of sneaking in with the cold, but it doesn’t have to stick around.
The holidays are over and it's back to the old routine. Although the days are getting longer, we only have nine hours and 25 minutes of daylight on Friday. Psychologists say that is proof enough the blahs, lack of motivation and exhaustion you might be feeling are in many respects beyond your control.
Nebraska Medical Center clinical psychologist Dr. Kelly Fairbanks says as many as three out of four people experience the disorder to some degree. If it's having a significant impact on work or your weight or your relationships, that's when it's time to seek professional help.
“People will misinterpret these symptoms as being a result of stress or they'll blame it on other aspects of their life, but what is going on is they have a lack of exposure to the sun and their batteries aren't being charged like they usually are."
“Kids often go stir-crazy when they're indoors a lot, so go with them,” says NMC health promotion manager Sarah Emanuel. “Do something that's fun, active, entertaining, that gets you moving. Our children sometimes can guide us down the right path and they don't even know it."
Or just stand up from your desk and take a loop around the office. If not already working out, stand up and walk in the living room or dance around in the bathroom or kitchen while you're getting ready. With how much time you spend hunched over a desk or lounging on the couch this time of year, a simple shoulder roll will help get the blood flowing and make you more aware of your body.
Dr. Fairbanks says physical activity is key in the fight against Seasonal Affective Disorder. If exercise seems too daunting, try merely standing up and sitting down a few times in a row or do a few push-ups against the wall.
A bright light can reduce SAD symptoms by boosting the chemicals in the brain that give us good energy. "Just increase the light anyway you can,” says Dr. Fairbanks. “Turn on more lights, open up the shades, get more natural light in. Natural light is key."
Or just turn on your imagination. "Thinking about exercising will do the same thing in your brain as exercise will. Just imagining yourself walking, imagining yourself jogging, snowboarding or anything you want to imagine will promote brain energy and will also promote the likelihood that you'll be physically active."