It’s that time of the year again: the holidays are around the corner, the weather’s getting chiller, and the days seem fleetingly short. And when the sun sets earlier, you may feel something else setting in — seasonal depression. An estimated 10 million Americans (around 3 percent of the population) have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which causes depressive episodes as the season shifts. But, you don’t need to be formally diagnosed with SAD to experience seasonal depression. Medical professionals estimate that another 10 to 20 percent of Americans experience a form of seasonal depression.
However, there are ways to cope with seasonal depression—and they may be easier to implement than you think. Maggie, 29, is the content creator behind the TikTok account @coffeewithmaggie. (Maggie asked that we not disclose her last name.) While she has dealt with seasonal depression in previous years, the Seattle resident says last winter was especially tough. Between COVID-19 and the cold, she wasn’t leaving her house very often. However, that changed when she became inspired to “romanticize her life,” a phrase commonly used on TikTok to refer to making ordinary moments seem, well, extraordinary.
Maggie started doing just that—making daily videos that romanticized her life, even amidst a difficult winter.
She embarked on a 30-day challenge, documenting small moments of joy in her daily routine. And even though her 30-day challenge of last year is long over, she continues to make TikTok chronicling her daily routine. Not many TikTokers choose to document their experience with seasonal depression, but Maggie remains committed—for her followers. “That is something that really means a lot to me,” she says. “The number of people who are like, ‘I am also really struggling, your videos really bring me a lot of peace or a lot of joy or have inspired me to do something similar.’”
If you’re dealing with seasonal depression, here are some things that Maggie recommends implementing into your routine to bring a little bit more joy—and light—into your day.
Six Tips to Address Seasonal Affective Disorder
Get up—and get moving
Before reaching for that morning cup of coffee, try incorporating some movement into your day. Maggie, who has done yoga teacher training, says she enjoys a yoga practice or an at-home streaming workout. This can be any kind of movement. (You don’t need to be dripping in sweat for it to count.)
Try a “therapy walk” for seasonal depression
Once a week, Maggie says she meets her friend at 7 a.m. at a nearby park. Even if it’s cold and gray, her and her friend will walk and get coffee. “It doesn’t matter the weather, it doesn’t matter the temperature, you just get up and walk,” she says. “Having someone hold you accountable is really great.” And for her, it’s also important to socialize with someone you don’t live with.
Create some structure
Even if you’re working the same 9-to-5 job every day from home, Maggie suggests establishing a morning routine. This may be showering, getting dressed (yes, out of your pajamas), and making a great cup of coffee—or a delicious breakfast. “I get dressed every morning, even if it’s just leggings on the bottom and a nice shirt on top,” she says. “Dressing like I have somewhere to be makes you feel like you are going somewhere [even if you’re not].”
Schedule in a non-work activity during the workday (and eat lunch)
Yes, you can put Slack on “do not disturb” for 20 minutes. Take a break during the workday for yourself and do something that will reenergize you. Maggie says she always takes her dog for a walk at 2 or 2:30 p.m. Even if you don’t have 20 minutes to spare, make sure to actually eat a real lunch—away from your computer.
Make time for what brings you joy
Your job may not end right at 5 p.m. But even if there’s more to do, Maggie advises setting a hard stop time for yourself. This is especially important in order to make time for the things that nourish your body, she says. “I think about it a lot in terms of something from cognitive behavioral therapy called behavioral activation,” she says. “So, start thinking about the things that bring you energy and bring you joy, that will prompt you to do more of those things.” For her, this is cooking, trying new restaurants, and movement. For you, it could be reading, practicing yoga, and hiking. The most important thing? It’s about what brings you joy.
Go to bed on time
We know, we know. This is way easier said than done. But, as Maggie says, when you go to bed on time, it’s easier to get up on time. Instead of participating in revenge bedtime procrastination and scrolling through TikTok for hours on end or binging that latest Netflix show, try to get some shut eye. This also may mean putting your phone in the other room. (We’ll say it louder for the people in the back—put your phone in the other room.) Out of sight, out of mind—get that shut-eye.