As the days grow shorter and we turn back the clocks, many experience seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you struggle with the changing seasons, you are not alone.
What is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression usually starts during adulthood, and its risk increases with age. It typically begins in the fall and continues through the winter months. It’s believed to be linked to reduced natural light exposure, which can disrupt your body's internal clock and production of certain chemicals in your brain, like serotonin and melatonin. This disruption can lead to symptoms like:
- Social withdrawal
- Increased appetite/weight gain
Tips for Coping with Seasonal Depression
Maximize Natural Light: Make the most of the available natural light during the day. Spend time outdoors, keep your curtains open, and sit near windows to increase your exposure to sunlight.
Stay Active: Incorporating physical activity such as walks or hiking into your daily routine can relieve stress and anxiety and boost your mood and energy levels.
Light Therapy/Dawn Simulators: Light therapy boxes that emit bright artificial light and dawn simulators, especially those with full-spectrum light, can be useful tools for managing SAD. However, you should always consult a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations.
Maintain a Routine: Stick to a consistent daily routine to regulate your body's internal clock, improve your sleep, and prevent overeating.
Socialize: Try to socialize, even when you don't feel up to it. Spending time with friends and family can provide emotional support and overcome feelings of isolation.
Diet and Nutrition: Eat a well-balanced diet with foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Some people find relief from SAD by including omega-3 fatty acids, lean proteins, folic acid, and vitamins C & D in their meals, which can support both your body and mind.
Reduce Your Stress: Write down your thoughts and practice stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to improve your mood.
Seek Professional Help: If your symptoms persist or worsen, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. They can provide therapy, prescribe medication, or suggest other treatment options.
As fall and winter set in, it's important to be proactive about your mental health and acknowledge the risks of seasonal depression. By implementing these strategies and seeking support when needed, you can better navigate this season. If you or someone you know is struggling with seasonal depression, remember that there are resources available, and it's okay to ask for help.
To get support for mental health, drug, and alcohol issues, visit FindSupport.gov.