How to Beat Seasonal Depression With Vision Loss
The holidays have just come to an end, but the winter season is really just getting started. I live in the Midwestern part of the United States, so from late October through the beginning of April there’s a high chance of a lot of cold, dreary days.
Maybe December isn’t as difficult for me to endure as the other winter months because of the joy of the season and simple pleasures like the Christmas lights that adorn our small country town. Or, maybe the change in season is welcomed as something different at first. But by mid-January, I really start to feel very pent up.
Maintaining our eye health even when it feels hard
For some reason, I really love the colder weather and quiet of the season during the holidays, but once we ring in the new year I’m almost immediately ready for spring. Cabin fever starts to set in for me and I begin to feel the strong anticipation of spring and warmer weather.
Doing anything ‘extra’ like exercising and scouting out the best produce at the grocery store seems like quite a task when I feel this way. I figure I can’t be the only one that feels like this, so I thought I’d share some information and tips with everyone to try to combat both the winter dreariness AND macular degeneration at the same time.
The darkness of winter
January and February are almost always briskly cold and for me, and I feel like they’re never-ending. It’s darker outside for so many hours of the day. Most days, I leave for work in the dark and return home in the dark as well. This definitely affects my mood. Plus, it’s too cold to want to do much of anything outside.
This all makes me feel crankier, more tired, restless, and less motivated to do things like exercise...which is something I know my eyes need from me. I also find myself disappointed in the produce section of the grocery store during the winter, longing for the fresh and bright colored fruits and veggies I love so much. Less sunlight, less exercise, less nutrient-packed food options...is all a recipe for a little bit of the winter blues for me and a little bit of a danger zone for my eyes.
Seasonal depression or cabin fever?
Seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is something that can be diagnosed by a doctor and is defined as a type of depression that is related to the change in seasons. Cabin fever is more just increased irritability and listlessness, as a result of long periods of confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately one half of a million people in the United States suffer from winter SAD, with 10 to 20 percent of those people suffering from a milder form of winter blues or cabin fever.
Three-quarters of SAD sufferers are women, with symptoms usually starting in early adulthood. SAD can also occur in children and adolescents, but it is less likely. Older adults are also less likely to experience it.
This illness is more commonly seen in people who live in cloudy regions or at high altitudes. People who relocate or move to higher altitudes are more likely to be affected by SAD.
What can we do about it?
The only way for me to combat these darker feelings is to understand what it is, and force myself to keep doing the things I know I need to do in order to maintain my overall health: mind, body, and eyes!
Just because my mentality has temporarily changed due to the change in seasons does not mean that the needs of my eyes have changed too.
Finding motivation to exercise
To be sure I get in my exercise (which my eyes need in order to get the most out of the nutrients I eat and supplements I take daily), I set a realistic goal and keep a routine. In the spring and summer, I am a lot more capable of waking up at 4 am to get in a few miles before the rest of the world wakes up. This time of year, I just don’t have quite the same motivation.
I have to be honest with myself about what is realistic so I don’t just completely disappoint myself and get entirely off the wagon. Instead, I try to make sure I get in some form of exercise that increases my heart rate for 30 minutes or more each day.
You don't have to have an expensive gym membership in order to exercise in the winter. I also love productive exercise where I’m getting things done that need to be checked off the to-do list while moving my body. Since it’s too cold to get outside for a few miles during the winter, I try to do things like deep clean or organize which really can get that heart rate up!
It’s important to note here too, that once we get moving and release some of those exercise hormones, we actually start to feel better and our mood can really change to a happier one! Getting there is half the battle.
Healthy eating in the winter
We all know that fruits and veggies during the winter can seem...ummm...less appealing than they do in the warmer months. For starters, less produce is ‘in season.’ The fruit and veggies that are available can be a lot more expensive this time of year. They're also not always as fresh. Plus, it’s cold and gloomy right now and sometimes we just want comfort food!
See this article I recently wrote on cutting back high costs of fruits and veggies!
All of this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t cuddle up under a blanket to keep warm and relax during the winter or eat comfort foods every once in a while. But our eyes are counting on us to keep moving and eating well too...even when it’s hard!
Does macular degeneration affect your mental health?