Depression that occurs or worsens during the winter months may be a sign of seasonal affective disorder. If the shortening of the days and the weather changes make you lose your energy and make you feel blue, you have the classic symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression triggered by the changes in daylight and weather that occur. produce mainly in winter.
Why do some people suffer from seasonal depression? Experts aren’t sure, but some believe these seasonal changes disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, the 24-hour clock that regulates how we function during sleeping and waking hours, making us feel sometimes energetic and alert and sometimes sleepy. Another theory is that the changing season disrupts hormones, like serotonin and melatonin, that regulate sleep, mood, and feelings of well-being.
Whatever the causes of seasonal depression, the signs and symptoms it causes are usually the following:
– Feelings of depression that occur most of the day, every day, in a seasonal pattern.
– Tiredness or lack of energy
– loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
– changes in appetite or weight gain
– excessive sleep.
- 1 How common is seasonal depression?
- 2 To help you manage SAD, here are some options you might consider
- 2.1 1 Talk to your doctor
- 2.2 2 Prepare your mind for fall, anticipate
- 2.3 3 Try light therapy
- 2.4 4 Use dawn simulators
- 2.5 5 Prioritize social activities
- 2.6 6 Add aromatherapy to your treatment plan
- 2.7 7 Stick to a schedule
- 2.8 8 Get moving
- 2.9 9 Let The Sun In
- 2.10 10 Take a vacation in the sun
- 2.11 11 Avoid alcohol
- 2.12 12 Keep a journal
- 2.13 13 Get enough vitamin D
How common is seasonal depression?
About 4-6% of the population suffers from seasonal depression. And up to 20% of them may have a mild form of it that shows up as the days get shorter and colder.
Women and young people are more likely to suffer from seasonal depression, as are people who live farther from the equator. People with a family history or diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder may be particularly vulnerable. It is important to treat SAD because all forms of depression limit people’s ability to live their full lives, enjoy their families, and function well at work.
To help you manage SAD, here are some options you might consider
1 Talk to your doctor
Because SAD is a form of depression, it must be diagnosed by a mental health professional. There are a number of screening questions that can help determine if a person is depressed. Your doctor will be able to determine if you have seasonal depression or another form of depression.
2 Prepare your mind for fall, anticipate
By preparing our homes for the transition from fall to winter, you can think about preparing your mind as well. Spending time on a regular basis for mood-boosting activities can help people feel healthier both physically and psychologically. It is best to prepare for the winter season by starting in the fall, doing enjoyable activities, initiating discussions and outings with groups of friends, choosing fun hobbies and engaging in clubs. Taking part in these activities regularly beforehand is much easier than trying to start from scratch once the winter blues have already set in.
3 Try light therapy
Light therapy, exposure to artificial light to help keep one’s circadian rhythm on track, is widely considered a first-line treatment option for seasonal depression. Also known as phototherapy boxes, these devices emit light that mimics the sun and can help with seasonal depression. The light emitted by light therapy boxes is significantly more intense than that of regular light bulbs, and it comes in different wavelengths. In general, you should sit in front of the light box for 20 to 30 minutes a day. This causes a chemical change in your brain that improves your mood and alleviates symptoms of seasonal depression. Experts generally recommend using the light box within an hour of waking up in the morning.
4 Use dawn simulators
Dawn simulators may help some people with SAD. These devices are alarm clocks, but instead of waking you up abruptly with beeps or loud music, they produce light that gradually increases in intensity, like the sun. There are different models of dawn simulators, but the best ones use full-spectrum light, which is closest to natural sunlight. Researchers found that dawn simulators were as effective as light therapy for people with mild seasonal depression.
Why are social activities important if you have SAD? Studies have established a causal relationship between social isolation and depression. And lately there has been no shortage of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent review article discusses the mental health impact of quarantine during the ongoing pandemic. The study, published in March 2020 in The Lancet, indicates that these periods of isolation can have a long-term psychological impact on people, including symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It’s important to find creative ways to stay connected with others during times of heightened isolation. Spending time with relatives and friends at a local park, playing outdoor sports or gardening games, or taking walks when the weather permits.
6 Add aromatherapy to your treatment plan
Aromatherapy, the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes, can also help people with seasonal depression.
A study published in June 2020 in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine states that essential oils help alleviate symptoms of depression and other psychological issues like anxiety and sleep disturbances. That said, the review authors note that evidence for the benefits of essential oils for mental health is so far scant and of somewhat limited utility.
With regard to seasonal depression in particular, essential oils could influence the area of the brain responsible for controlling moods and the body’s internal clock that influences sleep and appetite. Using essential oils could be a simple and safe way to improve mental well-being, especially when combined with another calming activity, such as taking a bath or enjoying the company of a candle.
7 Stick to a schedule
People with seasonal depression often have trouble sleeping at night and getting up in the morning. Maintaining a regular schedule improves sleep, which can help ease symptoms of SAD. Sticking to a regular schedule will also expose you to light at consistent and predictable times. And eating at regular intervals can help you avoid overeating. Many people with seasonal depression gain weight in the winter.
8 Get moving
As with other forms of depression, exercise can help relieve seasonal depression. Exercise can also help offset the weight gain that is common with SAD. Outdoor exercise is most helpful in relieving SAD symptoms. But if you can’t exercise outside because it’s cold or snowing, try using a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine set up near a window outside. home or at the gym.
9 Let The Sun In
If you suffer from seasonal depression or winter seasonal depression, you should go outside as much as possible during the day to take advantage of sunlight. In cold weather, bundle up and circle the block at noon or shortly after. This is when the sun is at its brightest.
Likewise, when you’re indoors, keep your blinds open to let in as much natural light as possible. And if you’re working remotely, choose a workspace close to a source of natural light if possible. Indoor lighting is much dimmer than natural light, which can have a negative effect on SAD symptoms
10 Take a vacation in the sun
Taking winter vacations to warmer climates can help relieve symptoms of SAD by helping you escape the cold and overcast skies. Even a short break from your daily routine in a sunny location can help with winter depression. The excitement that can boost your mood can start as soon as you prepare for your vacation and linger for a few weeks after you return.
11 Avoid alcohol
People may drink more for many different reasons during times of stress or sadness. When someone feels depressed, they are more likely to drink alcohol, but alcohol makes depression worse, hence the downward spiral,” she explains.
Also, if you notice that you’re drinking more often than before, or consuming more alcohol than before, these changes can eventually lead to addiction, she says.
According to Ms. Burgess, it is important to determine what is behind this behavior. She suggests asking yourself, “Why do I think I drink more? If you think you have a drinking problem, talking to your doctor can also help, adds Burgess.
12 Keep a journal
Writing down your thoughts can have a positive effect on your mood. It can help release some of your negative feelings.
How can journaling help you cope with depression? In fact, it helps you prioritize life’s problems and identify the factors that trigger depression, as well as the elements that contribute to improving your mood. Include your thoughts, feelings, and concerns in your journal. A good time to do this is in the evening, so you can reflect on everything that has happened in the last 24 hours.
13 Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for depressive symptoms. Low levels of vitamin D (caused by low dietary intake of this vitamin or insufficient exposure to sunlight) are common in people with seasonal depression. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels and tell you if supplements are right for you.