Seasonal affective disorder affects tens of millions of people around the world every year. And it’s natural to feel a bit sad during the winter months. The days are shorter, darker, and hope may feel more distant. But as the Earth continues its yearly pilgrimage around the sun, and winter turns to spring, the light inevitably returns. For many, more daylight alleviates anxiety, or even dispels it altogether. But that’s not the case for everyone.
If you find that your mood doesn’t seem to improve with the warmer seasons, it’s a sign you might have persistent anxiety. Persistent anxiety can be challenging to live with, but there are ways you can make it better. Some are more straightforward, while others may take more time before you start to see their effects. If you feel like you have persistent anxiety, here are four ways you can handle it.
1. Treat It Directly
Over the course of this article, you’ll read about many things you can do to improve your persistent anxiety on your own. But if you feel like you’re struggling — that, for you, daylight never breaks — it may be worth pursuing professional mental health treatment. Now, medication isn’t for everyone, but it definitely is helpful for some.
It’s easy to downplay the importance of your own mental health. But anxiety that persists is something to consider seriously. There’s no shame in needing help, and you may be surprised how much the right medication can alleviate your anxiety. And directly adjusting your chemical balance may enable you to improve other areas of your life that you don’t feel motivated to tackle. So if you feel a weight you just can’t seem to lift, consider looking outward before you keep looking inward.
2. Enjoy Fun
In modern society, it’s so easy to get trapped in the game of comparison. Social media is a vampire that will drain all your energy if you’re not careful. You might feel like you’re going nowhere compared to everyone around you, and that you need to keep busy all the time. But measuring your worth against the apparent success of others is a recipe for disaster.
Think back to when you were a child. Think back to when friendship was second nature and summers were endless. “The world” was everything around you instead of the glowing rectangle in your pocket. Remember how important fun was to your very existence and how joy and laughter was always just around the corner.
Joy is one of the best remedies for anxiety, and joy and fun often go hand in hand. Neither is prioritized in the modern world, especially compared to manufactured concepts like productivity. If you’re struggling with perpetual anxiety, make having fun your priority. Literally schedule it if you have to. Plan a date, a walk in the park, or a Saturday morning watching your favorite cartoons. Make time for whatever it is that puts an unironic smile on your face and the feel-goods in your brain.
3. Get Moving
One of the best ways to make sure that your anxiety persists as long as possible is to dwell in it, which, in winter, is easy. The short days and cold weather aren’t always the most inviting, and it’s often simpler to just stay indoors. But that also usually means fusing with your couch for a few months at a time.
Inactivity has been shown to directly increase levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. So if you’re experiencing persistent anxiety and live a relatively sedentary life, make a change. Get up and move. Go for a walk around your neighborhood, sign up for a gym membership, or ask a friend to go with you on a hike.
You don’t even have to go outside if you don’t want to. There are plenty of at-home exercise classes online and equipment you can order. And even if you don’t want the hassle of dealing with equipment, you can take up calisthenics. Calisthenics are exercises based in gymnastics, many of which require little or no equipment beyond your own body. Whatever you do, keep it simple — find something that feels good for you and stick with it.
4. Eat (Truly) Delicious Foods
It’s almost shocking how much the food you eat affects the quality of your mental health. The more you can supply yourself with quality food, the more likely you are to reduce your anxiety. Just like different cars require the right kind of fuel, your body requires the right kind of nutrition. And the good news is you can eat food that’s good for you and still tastes great. You may just need to adjust your tastebuds a bit.
Many foods that are readily available are loaded with sugar. From fast food to pre-packaged meals to candy and soda, it’s easy to eat way more sugar than you need. Habitual sugar consumption can lead to cravings and desensitize you to more subtle or natural flavors. But once you reduce your sugar intake, you’ll start to appreciate natural flavors that are just as, if not more, delicious than artificial alternatives.
It can be hard for many people to start cutting out sugar, but cooking more meals at home is a great place to start. And there are tons of cooking guides and videos plastered all over the internet to get you going. Think of one of your favorite meals, maybe from your childhood or a favorite restaurant, and search up a recipe. The more natural foods you eat, the more your taste and cravings will adjust over time. And, as your gut biome and body chemistry begin to rebalance, you may notice your mood start to lift as well.
When it comes to handling persistent anxiety, your own consistency is key. Changing your mood for the better is possible, but don’t let anyone sugar-coat the process. It takes time, effort, and consistency to change. It may be difficult, but taking medication if necessary, playing more, moving around, and eating well will make a big difference. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to reap the benefits of all the seeds you’re sowing.