If the shorter days, longer nights and changes in weather patterns leave you feeling down and lethargic, you could be suffering from a seasonable mood disorder. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of seasonal depression that is usually triggered by the shift in seasons, and primarily occurs in winter. Experts aren’t sure as to exactly why people get SAD, but some believe that it’s down to disruptions to the circadian rhythm brought about by seasonal changes. Others think that the changing seasons disrupt serotonin and melatonin hormones, which regulate important processes such as mood and sleep.
If you believe that you could be suffering from SAD, then it’s important to treat it. All forms of depression limit the ability to live your best life and function well at both home and work. We’ve put together some of the best ways to manage the symptoms of SAD.
#1. Speak to Your Doctor:
It’s certainly worth speaking to your doctor and letting them know how you’ve been feeling. They will be able to determine whether the symptoms that you’ve been experiencing are indeed SAD, or down to something else. This enables you to get a concrete diagnosis, which you can then move forwards from in terms of getting better and improving your life. Your doctor will also be able to suggest a range of treatment and therapy ideas that might help, in addition to referring you to mental health specialists.
#2. Speak to Somebody:
Therapists aren’t just for people who have long-term mental health issues to deal with. In fact, anybody can benefit from speaking to a therapist about anything that they might be going through at the time. Opening up and talking to somebody can really help you make sense of your SAD symptoms and come to terms with why you are experiencing them. A good therapist can also help to bring out any underlying issues which could be worsening your symptoms and help you better deal with those too.
#3. Try a Light Box:
Light therapy boxes can be great for people suffering with SAD since they give off light that mimics sunshine, immediately helping you feel better. The light from a light therapy box is significantly brighter than that from a regular bulb, and it comes in a variety of different wavelengths. Typically, sitting in front of a light therapy box for around half an hour per day can be very useful for those suffering from SAD. It helps to stimulate your body’s natural circadian rhythm and suppress its natural release of melatonin during the colder, darker months. Many people find light therapy to be at its most effective when they first wake up in the morning. However, you should only use a light box during daylight hours. Using it after dark can throw off your circadian rhythms and keep you awake at night.
#4. Try Aromatherapy:
Aromatherapy can also be a useful treatment option for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Certain essential oils can influence areas of the brain which are responsible for controlling the body’s internal clock and regulating moods. Try adding a few drops of a relaxing essential oil such as lavender or chamomile to your bath at night to help you relax, or putting a few drops on your pillow. A 2015 published in the Journal of Natural Medicines found that essential oils derived from the poplar tree were particularly effective when it came to treating the symptoms of depressive disorders.
#5. Exercise More:
Even though it’s difficult to find the motivation to exercise when you’re feeling depressed, moving more can help to alleviate the symptoms greatly. Outdoor exercise is usually the most helpful when it comes to helping with SAD symptoms, but if you can’t exercise outside due to cold or wet weather, then try choosing an exercise machine that’s close to a window instead. In addition, exercise can also help to combat the weight gain that’s often common with seasonal affective disorder.
#6. Get Some Sunshine:
If you have seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder during the winter, then you’ll want to get outside and take advantage of as much sunshine as you can. Since sunshine is limited during the winter months, get outside as much as you can during the day and try to take a short walk at around noon or just after, which is when the sun is brightest. It might be worth talking to your boss about how you’re feeling, if doing so will mean that you need to take your lunch break a little earlier than usual. When you’re indoors, try to keep blinds and curtains open as much as possible to let as much natural light in as you can. You want to be in naturally bright environments as often as possible.
#7. Maintain a Regular Schedule:
Since living with SAD can often mean that you have trouble getting to sleep at night and struggle to get up in the morning, maintaining a regular schedule can help. Bear in mind that SAD is usually brought on by a disruption to your body’s natural circadian rhythm, so do everything that you can to help it by sticking to a routine. For example, going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time each morning can make a huge difference to your sleep pattern and help to alleviate depressive symptoms. Keeping to a schedule will also ensure that you are exposed to light at consistent, predictable times.
#8. Take Vitamin D Supplements:
Deficiency in Vitamin D, which we usually get from sunlight, can exacerbate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorders. It might be worth taking a vitamin D supplement. For example, the Metagenics D3 5000 supplement features a potent supply of vitamin D in a highly bioavailable form, you can read more details about their productions on blueskyvitamin.com. Taking the supplement can help with the symptoms of seasonal affective disorders, in addition to several further benefits including boosting the body’s natural immune defenses and regulation of calcium and phosphorous absorption.
#9. Take a Winter Vacation:
If you need an excuse to take a trip somewhere warm and sunny, then this is definitely a good one. Taking a winter vacation to somewhere with a warmer climate can certainly help people with SAD, by giving them a break from their everyday routine and an escape from the cold weather and gray skies. Even a few days somewhere warm and sunny can help to lift your spirits and leave you feeling much better.
#10. Keep a Journal:
Last but not least, keeping a journal of your thoughts can help you to make sense of how you are feeling and have a positive effect on your mood by getting the negative thoughts and feelings out of your system. Writing for around 10-20 minutes per day on most days of the week is recommended by experts to get the most from this exercise. Include your thoughts, feelings, and concerns – getting them on paper can often automatically make them seem much easier for you to deal with. The best time to write in your journal is before bed so that you can reflect on the past 24 hours.
Seasonal affective disorder affects hundreds of Americans every year. If you’re suffering from the symptoms, we hope these strategies have helped you feel better.