Come winter, people in gloomier climes sometimes report that they feel depressed, generally down. This kind of depression is called seasonal affective disorder, aptly shortened to SAD. In it’s milder form, it’s referred to as the winter blues.
Research shows that less sunlight can throw your body’s rhythm off and reduce serotonin, a mood regulator, and melatonin, which regulates both sleep and mood. SAD is considered a subtype of major depression. It is more common among young females or people who have a family history of depression.
According to an article on the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health website, about six percent of American adults experience SAD while another 14 percent struggle with the winter blues, a milder sense of depression. Symptoms of seasonal depression, which can last for four or five months, set in when days are shorter, more often in northern regions.
Symptoms of SAD
Signs of SAD and winter blues vary, but generally people who suffer from seasonal depression:
- Sleep more and have a hard time waking up in the morning
- Feel sluggish throughout the day
- Tend to eat more and gain weight
- Don’t want to socialize
- Feel irritable
How to Self-treat
There are a number of steps you can take to avoid, alleviate or lessen the effects of seasonal depression.
1. Stay active.
Go for a walk every day and regularly get some exercise.
2. Go outside.
Being out and about in natural daylight can lift spirits.
3. Seek light.
Phototherapy, or light therapy, helps some people deal with seasonal depression. If your physician agrees, purchase a light box or lamp and sit in the light, which is brighter than home and office lighting.
4. Eat well.
Fight the urge to eat junk food and remember to bring fruit and vegetables into your diet. Ask for guidance from your physician if you need to.
5. Keep your mind active.
Occupy your mind by learning a new skill or take up a hobby. It helps to have something to focus on and look forward to.
6. Don’t isolate yourself.
It’s easy to avoid the company of others because when you’re depressed you often just want to be alone. But, fight this impulse and connect with friends and family regularly.
7. Get professional help.
If your symptoms become worse or nothing seems to help, it’s probably time to see your physician or a mental health professional, or both. Talk therapy can often help.
When you’re suffering from SAD or depression, the key is to be as physically and mentally healthy as possible. Take steps to improve your lifestyle and, when you need it, seek out professional help.