This year has been a cold one and it feels even colder for people like me with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Winter started early and has been persistent ever since. For the first while, it can be soothing and pretty. Looking out the window and seeing a snow globe scene is pretty. But when the short days, long nights, cloudy weather and cold temperatures start to hang around, it gets to me.

When I was a teenager, my mom called it the winter blues. But it’s not just the blues. It’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s like a depression that starts in the winter and ends in the spring. That said, it can make the winter feel like it will never end. It makes it hard to get out of bed, tough to keep up with my daily life and overall, it just makes me miserable. It feels like it should be something that can be shrugged off, but it’s not just a matter of being unhappy and needing to “cheer up.” It’s an actual form of depression.

Over the last few years, I’ve come up with some great ways to help myself beat Seasonal Affective Disorder. In case it can help, I thought I’d share what I do so it might help you get through it, too. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor to make sure that’s really what you’re treating. You don’t want to fight the wrong battle!

Light therapy – This technique is also called phototherapy. You need a device that produces bright white light, sometimes with some added blue light on top of the white. It is supposed to replicate the body’s response to natural outdoor light. Use the light for about an hour first thing in the morning. I flip mine on as soon as I wake up in the morning so I’m exposed to it from the moment I’m awake and throughout the time I get ready. Sometimes I have to bring it with me to shine it on myself while I eat breakfast, too. The light boxes aren’t cheap but they’re a very worthwhile investment. I felt the difference within days of getting mine.

A winter vacation – I’ve learned to save my vacation days and budget for the winter, when Seasonal Affective Disorder kicks in. It works for me anyway because I love going somewhere warm to get away from the cold weather. Going somewhere sunny and luxurious is my perfect solution. My preference is for a luxurious Mexico beach house because it’s nearly impossible for SAD to come with me to a sandy seaside. The sunshine boost makes a big difference in refreshing my mental and emotional wellness.

Going outside – As much as I’m not a fan of cold weather, if I get bundled up and head outside in daylight, especially if it’s sunny, but either way going outside is still a good idea. The outdoor light and fresh air makes a big difference to overall wellness, even when it’s below freezing outside. This is even more effective if I exercise while I’m out there.

Medication – This is a last resort for me. I haven’t had to fall back on antidepressants for a few years since I’ve been trying to use natural methods but they made a big difference for me for a while. Talk to your doctor if you think this option might be right for you. Just keep in mind that they can take a few weeks to start working to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder at full strength.