MORE THAN THE “WINTER BLUES”
Are you feeling the “winter blues?” If you’re feeling like you might be in more than just a slump, pay attention. As the days get shorter and the sunsets earlier, many people will experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which brings on symptoms of depression. What can you do to feel better?
WHAT IS SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER?
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD “is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.” Each year, it begins and ends around the same time. And for most people, these symptoms begin in the early fall and last throughout winter.
Common symptoms include fatigue, even when sleeping normally, weight gain, and carb cravings. These symptoms can be mild to severe, and may also be similar to depression.
Some estimates suggest that up to 10% of the US population experience symptoms. A recent study, conducted by the University of Georgia, suggests that there may be a connection between SAD and Vitamin D levels. Although a concrete connection has yet to be established, many studies are suggesting that there is a connection between these feelings and a lack of sunlight.
TIPS FOR SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
SAD can cause a negative impact in our daily lives. The overwhelming feelings can make it difficult to function. According to the American Psychiatric Association, adults experiencing symptoms of SAD report these feelings for about 40% of the year. Thankfully, there are steps you can consider that might help. As always, consult with your doctor before undertaking any new health routine or regimen.
Dr. Fumi Stephanie Hancock, PsychDNP, the CEO of POB Psychiatric Health, offers these tips.
Light box therapy
The idea behind light box therapy is to supplement the deficiency in natural sunlight this time of year. The patient sits in front of the light box for 30 to 60 minutes each day, usually while working. Ideally, you want a full spectrum light box that emits at least 10,000 LUX. These can be found online inexpensively. Of course, always talk to your doctor first.
Vitamin D supplements
Many people who experience depression from SAD also have lower vitamin D levels. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to determine your levels. Adding a vitamin D supplement is both easy and inexpensive and has helped many people feel better. Your doctor can best advise you on how much you need to take.
Add a pop of color
The shortened days with less sunlight combined with gray overcast skies is what’s behind SAD. When you can, add bright vibrant colors to your space. For example, you could paint an accent wall a bright orange or yellow, decorate with a color pallet with bright and cheerful colors, and also wear colorful clothing.
Getting plenty of physical activity is great to reduce symptoms of SAD and improves mental health in general. If you work out indoors that’s fine, but for an added bonus to help SAD, get outside when it’s not too cold. You can do things like go for a walk, rake leaves, play in the snow or just anything that gets the blood flowing for at least 20 minutes.
Make sure and use any paid time off and think about heading south for a break. The days are a little longer with more sunlight, and the weather is much warmer which will help relieve some of your depression. Walking around on the beach vs. being stuck indoors will definitely help improve how you feel.
Get excited about other things in life
We know that SAD comes about in certain people with a deficiency of certain brain chemicals like serotonin. You can naturally boost serotonin by making sure all areas of your life are going well. Are you happy with your career? Are your personal relationships healthy and thriving? Are you excited about the future? Getting these parts of your life in order will help combat SAD.
It might be tempting to want to unwind with a beer or glass of wine at the end of the day, but alcohol is a downer and will only make your depression worse. Stick to water as much as possible and also make sure to eat a healthy diet filled with nutrient-rich foods that help your body function optimally.
Talk to your doctor
If you don’t feel better or your symptoms get worse, see a doctor and get professional help. Some people need antidepressants and/or psychotherapy during the fall and winter months to help them feel better. Remember, getting help is a sign of strength and is necessary for a lot of people.
For more options, consider these free mental health resources.
Disclaimer: For informational purposes only. Third parties are not providing an endorsement of Shop LC goods or services. Shop LC is not providing an endorsement of third party goods, services, or opinions.
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