Tips to Combat Seasonal Depression
As the seasons change and the days grow shorter and colder, you may find yourself feeling depressed, experiencing lower energy, or no longer enjoying the activities you once did. Once warmer, sunnier days return, those feelings tend to dissipate and you feel more like yourself again – what gives? You may be experiencing seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Much like typical depression, you shouldn’t attempt to ignore your symptoms and “get through” the winter. Try these tips and recommendations to help combat your seasonal depression.
What is Seasonal Depression?
Like the name suggestions, SAD is a specific type of depression that is directly related to seasonal changes. Those who experience SAD will usually see symptoms start and end around the same time each year which for most people would begin in fall and continue through winter. While it is rare, some may also experience this change in mood in spring or early summer. When seasonal depression begins, your symptoms may start mildly but increase in severity over time. Symptoms of SAD include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, almost daily
- Losing interest in previously-enjoyed activities
- Low energy
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
While the specific cause of seasonal depression is unknown, some factors that could contribute include the disruption of your body’s natural internal clock due to a reduction in sunlight; a drop in your serotonin levels due to reduced sunlight exposure; or a disruption in your body’s natural levels of melatonin. Those who have a family history of SAD, a diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder, or living further from the equator are at higher risk of seasonal depression, as well.
Why Treating Seasonal Depression is Important
Much like other forms of depression, choosing to ignore the symptoms could lead to other health concerns or problems. Those with SAD are at risk of:
- Withdrawing socially
- Problems at school or work
- Substance abuse
- Developing other mental health disorders such as anxiety or eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
How You can Combat Your Seasonal Depression
If you feel you are suffering from SAD, discuss your concern with your doctor or mental health professional. They can help provide proper diagnosis, and ensure your symptoms are not potentially caused by a different health issue. When diagnosed with SAD, your treatment may include:
- Light Therapy: Also known as phototherapy, you sit a few feet from a special light box that exposes you to bright light within an hour of waking up each day. This mimics natural light and can alter the brain chemicals linked to mood. Light therapy is best utilized at the onset of seasonal depression and may take a few days to a few weeks before showing improvement.
- Medication: Antidepressants can prove beneficial for those who suffer from SAD. Your doctor will determine which prescription and dosage is right for you. Experiencing the full benefits of medication may take a few weeks, and it’s possible you may have to try different types before finding the right one for you.
- Psychotherapy: Talk therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy, may help you identify and change any negative thoughts or behaviors, learn healthy ways to cope with SAD, and learn how to better manage stress.
- Improve Your Mind-Body Connection: Regularly practicing some mind-body techniques could help combat symptoms of seasonal depression, such as yoga or tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, and music or art therapy.
There are also some great ways you can help complement your recommended treatment plan:
- Ensure your environment is sunny and bright. The key here is to let in the sunlight. Open your blinds, trim any tree branches that may be blocking out light, or even consider adding skylights to your home. Try to sit close to bright, open windows while you are at home or in the office.
- Go outside. Even if it’s cold and cloudy, outdoor light is helpful. Take a walk, visit a local park, or simply sit in the sun. This is especially useful if done within two hours of waking up in the morning.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity has been proven to help relieve stress and anxiety, which both could make SAD symptoms worse. Exercise also helps improve self-esteem and confidence, boosting your overall mood.
With these recommendations, note that every person and situation is different, so it’s important to find what works best for you.
Don’t Suffer Through the Season
When you’re feeling sick, chances are you look for an effective medicine or visit your doctor in an effort to feel better faster. It’s time to do the same for your mental health. If you feel you may be experiencing seasonal depression, visit any of our convenient Midwest Express Clinic locations today. We will discuss your symptoms with you and determine what treatment options will help you feel like yourself again.