6 Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression

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6 Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression

6 Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression

6 Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression


“Goodbye, summer. Hello, seasonal depression.” - Anonymous



The Changing of the Seasons


Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. These four beautiful seasons are each unique and bring their own sets of joys and challenges to humans and to the world around us. We each find things about the individual seasons that we love and do not love. Maybe it’s due to childhood memories, holidays, or even the temperature itself. One thing that comes with the seasons, is the changing of the seasons. For some people, this is a mystical and mesmerizing time; as the flowers bloom, the leaves change, or the first snowflakes of the winter season fall. For others, the changing of the seasons can be a difficult time.

What is Seasonal Depression?


seasonal affective disorder seasonal depression im sad its cold outside

Those people who struggle with the changing of the seasons might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression. According to Mental Health America,

“The prevalence of seasonal depression is anywhere from 0-10 percent of the population, depending on the geographic region.”

The fundamental elements of seasonal depression include:

  • Typically begins and ends at the same time every year for each person

  • Most people experience seasonal depression symptoms during the colder months of fall and winter

  • Mental Health America states two things can cause SAD in the colder months:

    1. “The reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter months may affect an individual’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. Lower levels of serotonin have been shown to be linked to depression. Brain scans have shown that people who had seasonal depression in the winter had higher levels of a serotonin transporter protein that removed serotonin than in individuals who did not have seasonal depression.”

    2. “Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, has been linked to seasonal depression. This hormone, which can affect sleep patterns and mood, is produced at increased levels in the dark. Therefore, when the days are shorter and darker the production of this hormone increases. Melatonin can also affect an individual's circadian rhythm, or "biological clock", resulting in ‘internal clocks’ being out of sync with ‘external clocks’, or the usual sleep/wake rhythms. This can result in some of the symptoms associated with seasonal depression.”



  • Much less common to experience seasonal depression in the warmer months of spring and summer

    • When the days are longer and there is more sunlight we are able to receive more of the benefits from the sun, such as vitamin D




SAD’s Effect on Your Mental Health


seasonal depression why am I sad in the winter

Seasonal depression can present itself differently depending on the person. In general, an individual who suffers from seasonal depression will exhibit general signs of depression. Some of the symptoms of depression include feelings of:

  • Sadness

  • Low self-worth

  • No way out

  • Anxiety and stress

  • Sleep issues, such as insomnia

  • Social withdrawal

  • Poor and unhealthy food choices

    • Overeating

    • Undereating



  • Isolation

  • Fatigue

  • Lack of motivation

  • Hopelessness

  • Irritability

  • Loss of interest in pleasurable things:

    • Favorite hobbies

    • Favorite television shows

    • Sex



  • Suicidal thoughts


However, there are some specific symptoms that will present themselves when a person becomes depressed due to seasonal changes. Some of the symptoms that may show themselves in a person who is suffering from SAD might include:

  • Overeating

    • Carbohydrates and starchy foods

    • Comfort foods

    • Junk food

    • Sugar



  • Weight gain

  • Constant fatigue

  • Wanting to stay in bed all day

  • Mood changes:

    • Fall and winter: depressed mood

    • Spring and summer: excessive energy and bouts of mania




6 Ways to Fight Off Those Winter Blues


As difficult as seasonal change may be for some people, there is some good news!

  • You are not alone

  • Seasonal depression is common

  • It is treatable


Knowing that you are in the same boat as many other people out there can make it easier and more accessible to find ways to help you cope during those cold, dark, and difficult months. Try out some of the following suggestions the next time you are feeling those “winter blues”...

  1. Light Therapy

    1. Exposing yourself to artificial forms of light can help to restore circadian rhythms and release melatonin

    2. Sit in front of a bright light box for 30 minutes, preferably first thing in the morning




Light therapy fight seasonal depression

  1. Talk to a therapist

    1. Reaching out to a professional can aid in working out your feelings and emotions, which can be important if your mood changes are affecting other aspects in your life such as relationships or work

    2. Therapists can also help to give effective and individual tools to fighting depression



  2. Exercise

    1. Physical exercise helps to release serotonin in the brain

    2. Can help to combat any weight gain put on during the winter months



  3. Expose yourself to the sun, when possible

    1. Get outside while the sun is shining! Go for a walk in the falling leaves or put on your winter gear and enjoy a sled ride

    2. Keep your blinds and curtains open during the daytime hours to allow as much natural sunlight in as possible



  4. Supplement with vitamin D

    1. There are many significant physical and mental health benefits to increased levels of vitamin D

    2. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels to see if you should increase your dosage of vitamin D during the darker months



  5. Take a vacation

    1. If possible, save up those vacation days and take a trip to a warm and sunny destination to load up on some sunlight!

    2. Planning a vacation can also give you something to look forward to if you are dreading the colder months ahead




Resources:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad

https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression#1

https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/treatment/ways-to-ease-seasonal-depression/#12

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