Since fall is upon us, that means fewer daylight hours, more cloudy days and lower temperatures. Due to these seasonal shifts, many people experience lower energy levels, depression and even difficulty concentrating due to the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to Mental Health America, about 5 percent of the U.S. population experiences seasonal depression. If this is a disorder that you believe that you or a loved one may be coping with, read on to learn about the details and the five ways you can combat SAD.
These are the symptoms of Seasonal Depressive Disorder according to Mental Health America:
- Depression: Some people may not notice seasonal feelings of misery, guilt, loss of self-esteem and hopelessness creeping on during the fall and winter months. Depression is also known to affect the interest you have in many activities you usually find enjoyable throughout the rest of the year.
- Anxiety: The rising tension you may feel while with your friends or family could come as a seasonal surprise due to SAD, especially if it only comes on in the fall and winter months.
- Mood changes: Are you upset at things that normally wouldn’t bother you other times of the year? That time you overreacted dropping a quarter in the grocery store or cried when you ate your last cookie could be an example of the mood extremes that are experienced with seasonal depression.
- Sleep problems: Wanting to sleep more than usual, or oversleeping and then having difficulty staying awake, may be tell-tale factors of SAD.
- Lethargy: If have a general lack of energy and you’re already tired after just walking to the mailbox and back, your fatigue is not necessarily normal; consider if there is an underlying cause, like SAD.
- Overeating: If you’re gaining weight unexpectedly in a short amount of time, you should check to see if it’s something that’s being affected by the seasons.
- Social problems: Becoming easily irritated and having an increased desire to avoid social contact are common symptoms of seasonal depression.
5 Ways to Combat Seasonal Depression
Although you may have one or more of the symptoms of Seasonal Depressive Disorder, you should always check with a medical professional to confirm your suspected diagnosis. The good news is that there are several easy ways to help fight SAD including:
- Light Therapy Boxes: Sitting in front of a blue light box for about 30 minutes a day is a great way to mimic getting a dose of sunshine that’s in short supply this time of year and it help you recover from seasonal depression. These special lights are brighter and a different color spectrum than regular lightbulbs and can help stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms, as well as suppress its release of melatonin.
- Talk to A Professional: Since SAD is a diagnosed form of depression, consider talking with a mental health professional or your primary care doctor if you can’t shake feelings of anxiety and sadness.
- Keep A Regular Schedule: With the amount of daylight getting shorter several months in a row, people with SAD may have trouble sleeping and getting up in the morning. Maintaining a regular schedule can help improve your sleep, as well as eating at regular intervals. Eating the same times each day can help prevent weight gain. One common symptom of SAD is eating too many carbs which can increase levels of serotonin.
- Do Ergonomic Exercises: Sitting in an office all day can be challenging in the fall and winter months, especially if you walk inside when the skies are overcast and leave when the sun is already setting. Increase your endorphins and give yourself a boost of energy with exercise. You can try these ergonomic exercises at your desk or in any chair!
- Go Outside: As mentioned above, sitting in an office all day can significantly hinder the chances of you getting a quality dose of Vitamin D. Make sure to go outside as much as you can to experience natural day light. Eating lunch in a park or taking a quick walk outside with a co-worker can be just what you need for a quick pick me up.
Seasonal depression doesn’t have to be something that you tolerate. Try these simple tips to help you get through the fall and winter months and don’t hesitate to talk with a medical professional for other options.