Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. However, there are different types of depression, which include seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This affects an estimated number of 10 million Americans, according to research. If you are diagnosed with or suspect symptoms of SAD, this article will shed some light on the subject and provide tips on how to cope with it.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD is a type of depression that occurs on a seasonal pattern. When autumn and winter arrive, some individuals feel irritable, moody, exhausted, or depressed. It’s believed that this is normal, as biological factors make people sad and tired in the winter. However, when symptoms become severe and interfere with one’s ability to function normally, it might not just be the winter blues—it could be something more serious, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.
SAD is a clinical depression triggered by seasonal changes. It’s believed to be caused by a biochemical imbalance, particularly a drop in serotonin. That gloomy feeling comes with the arrival of the colder months. Usually, it doesn’t show up until late autumn or early winter. Symptoms can include the following:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of enthusiasm for activities
Fortunately, there are various programs available for addressing this kind of depression. You can click here for more information.
What Causes It?
The causes of seasonal affective disorder differ from person to person. However, a variety of other factors are believed to contribute to the development of SAD. These are some of the probable causes:
- Melatonin and Serotonin Issues: The amount of sunshine you get influences your serotonin levels, a brain chemical that affects your mood. When you get less sunshine during the fall and winter, your serotonin levels decline, which can lead to depression. Similarly, during nighttime, your brain creates melatonin, a hormone that helps your body prepare for sleep. When the seasons change, the equilibrium of your body’s amount of melatonin may be disrupted. When mood-regulating nerve cell circuits in the brain don’t function properly, sadness, weariness, and weight gain may occur.
- Effects Of Light: As soon as light enters the retina, signals are sent to the prefrontal cortex. This, in turn, sends signals to the regions of the brain that regulate sleep, food, sex drive, body temperature, mood, and activity levels. But when light levels are low, these processes might decelerate or even halt altogether. So, people who need a lot more light than others are likely to get SAD when the seasons change, especially if they frequently stay indoors.
- Disrupted Body Clock: Winter-onset SAD can also be brought on by the lower amount of daylight received throughout the fall and winter months. When your exposure to sunshine is reduced, your body’s natural clock may be thrown off, leading to feelings of despair.
- Temperature and Weather: Everyone has a unique perspective on specific seasons and weather patterns. However, some people may feel particularly uneasy when the seasons change. This could result in the development of depression or exacerbate existing depression.
It’s crucial to remember that SAD is a complex disorder, and not all cases can be traced back to a single cause. A combination of factors, including melatonin and serotonin abnormalities, genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and lifestyle, can contribute to the development of SAD.
Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
There’s no proven technique to avoid the onset of SAD. However, if you take action to cope with it early on, you may be able to keep it from worsening over time. Here are some ideas to help make you feel better:
See a Therapist
Several talking therapies are used to address depression and SAD. For example, counseling allows you to share your feelings in total confidentiality openly. Therapy frequently includes addressing your feelings about yourself and others and figuring out whether anything in your history is impacting how you feel today. With the help of a professional and qualified counselor, you may work through your feelings and create coping methods.
Your symptoms may only linger for a few months, but you may feel more in control of the situation with medication and treatment. A professional can determine whether you have any nutritional deficiencies, such as low vitamin D levels, that might influence your mood. They may also advise taking antidepressant medication or suggest supplements to help you feel more energized. If you notice a significant shift in your emotional or mental health, don’t disregard it, especially if you have seen it happen. Consult a medical expert and look into pharmaceutical choices.
Get Some Natural Light
Aside from therapy and medication, it can help to get natural sources of light as often as possible. When your body needs it most, try opening the curtains and windows during the day to let sunlight in. You can also enjoy your meals, go for walks, or read a book outdoors. All of these can make a tremendous difference in your mental health.
Taking walks outside on a sunny winter day can help your body absorb some of that healthy light and eventually feel better. Even on a cloudy day, going for walks still provides you with more light than you would if you were inside. It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed warmly. As long as light enters your eyes, your mood will improve.
Exercise, especially green exercise outside, is an effective therapy for any mood disorder as the brain increases the level of dopamine or the body’s natural ‘feel-good’ hormones. Because of this, it’s best to get it done regularly. You can do light exercises like walking or jogging in the morning or moderate exercises like lifting weights at home or the gym. Furthermore, you can occasionally join various outdoor activities, such as hiking, skating, or snowboarding.
Make Plans For The Following Season
Being proactive in planning for the upcoming months is ideal when you often feel less energetic. If you’re contemplating holiday shopping or sending out greeting cards, plan and schedule them now instead of waiting until the colder months. This way, you’ll feel more excited for the winter season to come. For example, you can schedule a vacation. Even three or four days in a sunny, mild climate can lift you out of melancholy, especially if your doldrums are moderate. Within a few days, you may feel better.
Get In Touch With Family and Friends
As with most mental health issues, it’s best to let people you care about know if you need more help. Although it may be challenging, it is essential to talk about mental health problems with those close to you so that they can give you the necessary understanding, empathy, and care.
Control Your Stress
Stress can be especially damaging for people suffering from SAD. So, if seasonal melancholy saps your vitality every winter, avoid being stressed. Of course, it’s much simpler to say than to accomplish. It’s a good thing there are stress management practices that might help you deal with seasonal depression. This includes practicing meditation, planning your tasks and goals for the season, and taking breaks to go outside in the light.
Take Good Care Of Yourself
Make time to unwind and treat yourself. Take a hot bath or spend the evening reading a novel. Don’t forget to exercise regularly to ensure that your brain and body are constantly flooded with feel-good hormones. These and more habits can make you feel good every day.
Limit Your Consumption Of Junk Food
When feeling down, it’s easy to seek sugary and starchy comfort foods. Sure, you’ll feel a surge of energy right away. However, that feeling doesn’t last, and overeating sugar can harm one’s health.
It’s also believed that a diet high in sugars, sweets, and processed food is linked to an increased risk of depression. In contrast, dietary habits that included veggies, nuts, and eggs were associated with a lower risk of depression.
Practice Meditation and Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is an excellent approach to staying on top of mood swings. Meditation allows you to be present in the moment, which helps you focus on the positive and improves your overall view of life. If you suffer from seasonal depression, meditation could be a helpful addition to your self-care practice.
Learn To Value The Simple Things
Taking delight in the little things in life might help you divert your attention away from negative thoughts and emotions. Even small daily joys can improve your overall mood and boost your well-being. You may try discovering a new hobby by traveling for a day or taking a break from work. You might even plan activities you enjoy with your loved ones, even if they live far away. You can boost your mood no matter what you do if you focus on the bright side.
If you are frequently depressed and have difficulty falling asleep during certain seasons, particularly the winter, you may suffer from SAD. Fortunately, there are strategies to deal with this sort of sadness. Coping mechanisms like counseling, light therapy, and medications can effectively reduce SAD symptoms. In addition, it’s best to consult your doctor if you suspect you have SAD to help develop a treatment plan for managing the condition.