Counselor gives 9 tips to help people with seasonal affective disorder

Local News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Rachel Bunyard from Elliott Counseling Group has shared some tips to help people deal with their seasonal affective disorder healthily as cold seasons are slowly approaching central Illinois.

Although there are many things that we are grateful for such as leaves changing their colors, pumpkin patches, a cup of hot cocoa, gingerbread, and Christmas trees, fall and winter times can come along with a few things that negatively affect a person’s physical and mental health.

According to Rachel Bunyard — a professional therapist and a clinical team leader at the Elliott Counseling Group, many people experience seasonal affective disorder, especially during the fall and winter times.

Rachel said the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are very similar to the symptoms of clinical depression. People who have seasonal affective disorder tend to experience a lack of energy, lack of interest in things that they normally like, change in appetite, weight loss/gain, trouble sleeping, or just an overall feeling of discontentment. Some people can even struggle with suicidal thoughts that they do not typically have.

Below are nine tips that Rachel has shared with WCIA 3 to help people cope with seasonal affective disorder:

1. Talk to others and stay connected
“When the days are shorter and the sun is not out anymore, we don’t see as many people outside as we do in the summertime so we want people to stay connected to one another,” said Rachel.
She recommends people to have a quick phone or Zoom call to a loved one because that can help destress their mind and ease their anxiety.

2. Get vitamin D supplements
According to Rachel, people tend to get a lot of vitamin D from being outside soaking up the sun. However, there is usually less of that during the wintertime. Hence, taking vitamin D supplements can help recharge and energize the body and mind of a person.

3. Set short-term goals
It is suggested to set out some goals that are short-term so that they will feel manageable and attainable. It will give a person a chance to feel accomplish and something to look forward to, like a roadtrip with friends or a fancy dinner with a special someone.

4. Exercise
It is also important to keep the body moving and get the heart rate up with any type of physical exercises such as running, walking, at-home exercises and yoga.

5. Normalize cabin fever
“Normalizing cabin fever is something very important too,” said Rachel. “It is perfectly reasonable to know that we are all to some extend feel this way when we’re cooped up inside during winter months. It is good to normalize everyone feels this way sometimes so you know that it’s not just you and you are not alone going through this.”

6. Meditate
Many health professionals recommend people try meditation. According to officials, practicing mindfulness means to be presently aware of one’s surrounding and watch thoughts come and go in one’s mind. This helps the mind paying less attention to negative feelings, emotions, and thoughts. It is proven to help increase productivity, work-life balance and academic performance. It also helps with sleeping and eating habits.

7. Watch TV or play music in the background
Putting on some upbeat music or light-hearted TV programs can help a person feel less lonely.

8. Take on a new and healthy hobby
Rachel said it is good to try something new or learn something new. It helps keep a person’s mind active and engaging with the life around them.

9. Reach out to professional help
Contacting professional support such as a therapist or a counseling service agent can help a person find out more effective ways to deal with their depression and anxiety when other things do not work for them.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.