With few holidays and short days, February is a common time for seasonal affective disorder to strike. The “winter blues” or seasonal depression affects many people who don’t otherwise report depression and varies in frequency around the country. Not surprisingly, sunny states like Florida report the lowest incidence — less than 2% of the population — while states that experience a deep winter see the highest incidence. In New Hampshire, our neighbors to the north, nearly 1 in 10 people report the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

If you’re suffering from the seasonal slump, you might notice familiar symptoms: low energy, lack of concentration, weight gain and a diminished interest in social activities. You may see these symptoms every year at this time. Is it tougher to get out of bed in the morning — or to say yes to an invitation to get together with friends? You’re not alone in feeling this way, and you’re not alone in trying to combat it.

Many people find success with high-intensity light therapy, either from spending more time outside in the sun or from artificial indoor sources. Work with your doctor to determine the type of bulb, color and distance from which you should sit to maximize the benefits. Here at Educators Insurance Agency, we try to boost vitamin D and take advantage of our intermittent sunny days by heading outside for a brisk walk at lunchtime. While it may be tempting to stay at your desk and tick more off your to-do list, some outdoor activity can provide a perfect mix of time with friends and cardiovascular effort to offset last night’s dinner.

While you’re inside, try to move your desk near a window — and don’t be tempted to lower the blinds. Even some exposure to sun on our greyest days can help the body produce vitamin D.

Exercise can also help you to avoid seasonal affective disorder. Just as it can help many types of depression, exercise helps prevent seasonal affective disorder by offsetting many of its symptoms like weight gain and social withdrawal. That brisk walk with friends serves multiple purposes! But even if you can’t get out during the day, or don’t want to try running in inclement weather, low impact activities like yoga can help — especially if you take a class that connects you to others.

Those connections can help in many other ways. You can ward off seasonal affective disorder by reducing stress, minimizing the anxiety and “spiraling thinking” that comes with isolation. Though the weather might encourage you to stay in, explore opportunities to spend time with friends. They can boost your mood and provide the warmth that nature lacks right now!

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