October 12, 2018

Imagine this: You’re driving along a relatively straight road and skrrrt out of the blue, you’re forced to make a sharp turn left.

That’s what switching from season to season feels like to me.

The changing of the seasons is one of the solid constants we have in this world, so don’t get me wrong—I fully expect those common markers of spring, summer, fall, and winter. But all the feelings that come with each season? Those catch me by surprise every time.

Researchers have done a lot of work to uncover what we now call “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD. It’s a type of depression that creeps in and out with the changing of the seasons—and, yes, that includes summer too.

SAD is a type of depression that creeps in and out with the changing of the seasons—and, yes, that includes summer too.
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Changes in serotonin levels (the chemical that helps regulate your mood, among other things) and melatonin production (a hormone that affects your sleep) are some of the reasons you might be feeling out of sorts when the weather shifts, but transitions like the weather also can bring up a lot of personal triggers, too.

Regardless of whether you feel a large or small shift, there are plenty of tried-and-true ways to make that shift a little easier. But before we get into those: If things really do get tough at any point of the year, seeking the help of a professional is always the right move.

With the recent change of seasons, I'm switching up my self-care routine to proactively combat the onslaught of weather-related feels. Here are some of my go-to moves for the big seasonal shifts:

Summer → Winter

As beautiful as winter can be, sometimes the shift from summer to fall to winter can feel the heaviest. The days are getting darker earlier—the sun might go down before you even get home from work. If that throws your whole sense of being out of whack, you’re not alone.

As beautiful as winter can be, sometimes the shift from summer to fall to winter can feel the heaviest.
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To combat that scary feeling, there are certain things I like to integrate into my life that make my world feel a little warmer—physically and emotionally.

Strech It Out

More often than not, physical activity dwindles during the winter. Shorter daylight hours plus cold weather isn’t the best mix when it comes to staying active. If this is the case for you, try incorporating some stretches into your day.

Whether that means picking up yoga (you can start with YouTube videos in your home!) or just taking a minute in the morning to shake out your limbs, studies show that stretching can help release tension in muscles as well as calm the mind.

Stretching also increases blood flow, which in turn can increase energy levels—and getting as much of that as possible in the winter sounds pretty good to me.

Go All 'Hygge'

Changing up my space to reflect my cozy needs helps me create a place of refuge and comfort when I need to escape the cold temperatures outdoors. You can do this by tapping into what the Danish call “hygge.” The word means feeling comfy, cozy, safe, and/or warm.

Try to find ways to get into a hygge state of mind. Maybe that means embracing more natural lighting, or taking time to prepare foods that make you feel good. Or perhaps, it means spending time in spaces that emanate comfort, like your local library.

Make H20 Your BFF

Regardless of the season, drinking water makes me feel on top of the world. In the summer, we’re constantly quenching the thirst that comes from wandering in the sun or feeling sticky in humidity. But during the winter months, it can be easy to slow down your intake. Making sure to always start and end the day with water can help me stay on top of it. Knowing that my skin is getting the hydration it needs to protect me during a chilly moment outside (or, you know, in the office AC) is a special kind of comfort.

Let Yourself Rest

Once your hydrated and in your cozy space, it's time to get some quality sleep. The lack of light in the winter months can make us feel more sluggish than usual. Regulating my sleeping habits—which means trying to squeeze in that sweet spot of eight hours a night and setting boundaries to make it happen—helps me keep my energy up through the coldest months.

Winter → Summer

Thanks to spring, the shift from winter to summer can feel a lot more natural, but there are still plenty of things you can do to care for your mind and your body before your days are flooded with sunlight and heat.

Seasonal affective disorder can still pop up in the summer. Feelings of anxiety and agitation are often associated with this kind of seasonal SAD. But similarly to winter SAD, there are self-are steps you can take.

Walk It Out

To fight summer SAD, try taking regular walks when the temperature allows. Time outside in the morning or evening helps me prep for my day or unwind from whatever may have happened. Plus, there’s nothing like getting in some sunshine while wandering at my own pace.

Try Something New

Try something new is also important to me during the summer months. Even if it’s as simple as walking a new way to work or trying a new type of food, switching things up from my day-to-day routine can help me maintain a sense of adventure.

Changing your routine in little ways can help your brain think more creatively and forces you to think in new ways.

Recharge Your Batteries

But making time and finding new ways to switch up your routine? That can be exhausting—especially when it can feel like there are so many hours in the day since the sun is setting later and later.

Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is how I don’t get caught up in the hustle of summer. Regulating my sleep helps me regulate all of my emotions. Because the sun is usually up way before we are, the light can affect hormones and keep our brain stimulated longer.

In the summer, I still prioritize my bedtime routine. At night, I try not to scroll through my phone before bed or stare at other screens for too long. It helps me fall asleep quicker and get more quality Zzzs so I can greet the sunny days feeling refreshed.

Ultimately, we can't control the weather—but we can control how we react to it and the way it influences our vibes. The next time you’re forced to make an emotional sharp turn left as the temperatures drop, these tips will hopefully help you make the adjustment a little bit smoother.


Read next: The First-Ever Self-Care Atlas: How People in 50 Countries Find Zen

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