3 Expert-Approved Ways To Deal With SAD Through The Last Stretch Of Winter

We only have a few weeks left in winter, but if the cold weather has left you in a slump, you aren't alone. Feeling tired of winter is normal, even with spring nearly in our grasp, but if your symptoms are more serious, you could be dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a depressive condition caused by a change in seasons. According to academic journal Psychiatry, it affects up to 20 percent of American adults, and symptoms can include a heavy feeling in your limbs, trouble completing tasks and a loss of energy in things you usually enjoy.

Psychotherapist Katherine Schafler tells Bustle that seasonal affective disorder is also marked by a rough time waking up in the morning, overeating, decreased energy and having a hard time concentrating. "It's important to note that SAD is more than just feeling ‘out of it’ for a few days," she says. "SAD is also marked by a withdrawal from social activities, uncharacteristic pessimism and the inability to extract as much pleasure from things that normally make you happy."

Schafler, who works with Airbnb to develop strategies for fighting winter blues using their experiences, says it's normal for people to blame themselves for a winter slump, but "SAD is not is a personality preference." It's a physiological response to a change in light exposure, which can affect your ability to absorb serotonin, and the further you are from the equator, the more at risk you are of developing SAD. If you're experiencing depressive symptoms, it's important to talk to your doctor. But even if you don't have the condition, you may feel weary as you await warmer days. Schafler shared some suggestions for making the best of the rest of winter with Bustle.

Go Outside
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One of the best ways to feel better, according to Schafler, is by getting outside — even if the weather is unpleasant. "I know it’s cold, and I know it can feel like the opposite of what you want to do, but get some cute mittens and bundle up," she says. "Even if it’s not sunny outside, you’ll get more light than being inside, and light is one of the biggest factors in the winter blues." Taking a walk outside a few times a week, even if it's just around the block, is a way to get your sunlight in and feel better.

Travel Somewhere Warm
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If you have the means to travel, it may be time to book a getaway to somewhere sunny. Even though you'll likely feel better once spring is here and the sun is out every day, spending time in a warm climate can help you feel better in the immediate term. "Symptoms begin to clear as the seasons change. Still, even though it's likely to be temporary, I'd really caution anyone against 'waiting it out,'" Schafler says. "This is your life, the winter is a good part of the year, and not giving yourself the best chance possible to feel better is a waste of your precious time, in my opinion." While there are other ways to feel better, exposure to sunlight seems to be one of the most effective solutions — even though it may require a plane ticket.

Pick Up A New Hobby

Of course, not everyone can afford to fly to a tropical paradise. Schafler says that just getting out of the house and socializing can be tremendously helpful, and picking up a new hobby is one way to make sure you stay busy. "If you can't afford to get away, I get that. There are lots of alternatives," she says. "Airbnb has a whole experiences offering where you can get a burst of novelty and meaningful engagement in so many different ways, starting your own podcast, doing a food tour of your city, [or] volunteering. There are just a million plus ways to feel better now, and they're all for less than you'll pay to order forgettable takeout three nights in a row."

You've made it through almost all of winter, so you're in the home stretch. These tips may help you feel more motivated and energetic, but it's super important to talk to a doctor if your symptoms are impacting your day-to-day life or getting worse.