Seasonal Affective Disorder: Do you have it? And what to do about it!
Feeling Sad from S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?
It’s that time of year again where the seasons change, days grow shorter and you find yourself feeling a little blue; only this year, don’t brush it off, take steps to prepare yourself. Those winter blues may be due to something called seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that usually occurs in the winter, starting late fall to early winter. It occurs more commonly in places far north or south of the equator. Although the specific cause is unknown, SAD is thought to be due to the shortening winter days. The reduction in daylight disrupts your internal clock and the balance of serotonin and melatonin which affect sleep and mood.
Common symptoms include:
● Feeling depressed most of the day
● Feeling hopeless
● Low energy
● Increased sleep, appetite and weight gain
● Lost interest in activities you once enjoyed
These symptoms will typically begin and end during the same season every year with more seasons of depression then seasons without depression over your lifetime. Since SAD shares common symptoms with disorders such as major depressive disorder, it is important to speak to your doctor first to find the best treatment for you.
Some common treatments that your doctor may start include light therapy or medications. Light therapy is a special light box that mimics outdoor light. You sit a few feet away from it for a couple hours a day as you go about your daily routine. It is one of the first line treatments for SAD and has very little side effects associated with it. Another more convenient treatment is starting antidepressants, especially if symptoms seem severe. Your doctor will help you find the best medication that works for you with the fewest side effects. Keep in mind that it may take several weeks to notice the full benefits of antidepressants.
Some things you can try yourself include:
● Changing your environment: Make your environment brighter and sunnier by opening blinds or sitting closer to bright windows.
● Going outside: Take a stroll outside, even during lunch breaks. Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible.
● Exercise regularly: Exercise is a great way to boost your mood and to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies show that walking 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week causes a significant improvement in depression. The improvement is also long lasting! (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/)
● Eat a healthy, balanced diet
● Learn techniques to better manage the stresses in your life: (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368)