What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD is a type of depression that is related to changes in the season. SAD is most common in individuals above age 20, and between 10-20% of the population in the United States experience SAD-related symptoms.
When are symptoms the worst?
Symptoms of SAD tend to begin in the late fall or early winter months. Symptoms are usually the worst in January + February, and begin to improve by early spring. Although uncommon, a very small percentage of people experience SAD in the spring + summer.
Why do people get SAD?
Reduced sunlight may interrupt your body’s internal clock and reduce levels of serotonin (your body’s feel-good neurotransmitter) which can lead to symptoms of depression. Your body’s Melatonin levels may also be disrupted, which can negatively impact your sleep patterns + mood.
How do I know if I have SAD?
While many people may experience mild symptoms of depression in the winter months, be on the lookout for the following:
- Severely depressed mood
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Change in sleep patterns
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness + guilt
- Changes in appetite
- Trouble concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What can I do about it?
It’s no secret by now that I believe exercise can significantly improve many of our problems, and this is no different. When you exercise, your body will be getting the mood-boosting endorphins it needs to fight off symptoms of depression while your energy levels also increase.
Light therapy involves sitting in front of the light box for about 20 minutes a day. It may sounds a little crazy, but most people begin to see improvements in 1-2 weeks. You can buy a light therapy box like this one. They can be kind of pricey, but worth it if you are in the midst of seasonal depression. (Be sure to talk with your doctor before investing in one of these, just to be sure there are no underlying health conditions to look out for.)
Talk to someone
Therapy in Virginia Beach can be extremely effective for SAD, and it doesn’t have to be long-term. In just a few sessions, a therapist can give you the tools to help identify/change your negative thinking patterns + help you to not feel so alone.
Spend time outside
Part of the reason people experience SAD is because of the shorter daylight hours and decreased outdoor time. Try to fit in a short walk outside on a daily basis. Just 10 minutes a day!
Eat a balanced diet
If you’re feeling depressed, you might be craving foods high in carbohydrates and fats, which will make you feel even more sluggish and unmotivated, continuing the downward spiral. Be sure you’re giving your body the nutrient dense food that it needs to stay healthy.
Isolation is common for people who are feeling depressed. When it’s cold + dark outside, the urge to hibernate is at an all-time high. While staying snuggled inside is perfectly fine, be sure you continue to socialize every now and then – even if you have to force yourself to grab coffee with a friend.
Get enough sleep
With less daylight yours, this is the perfect time to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Sleep depravation can contribute to symptoms of depression, so be sure you’re getting between 7-9 hours each night.