What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
There are many people around the world that are affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) each year. Most commonly felt during the fall and winter months, SAD is a form of depression that can severely impact a person’ s mood, emotions, thoughts and energy levels. Many of those who suffer from this mood disorder often can feel overwhelmed or lost in terms of how to ease the symptoms. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to 6% of people in the United States suffer from the seasonal affective disorder and an additional 20% will a milder form of the condition. While the winter months may feel daunting for many, there are ways that you can relieve the symptoms of SAD to protect both your physical and mental health when the season changes.
Causes And Symptoms Of Seasonal Depression
Although experts aren’t sure as to the exact reason why people are affected by SAD, some believe that changes in the circadian rhythm and hormonal changes around this time are a leading factor. As the 24-hour clock regulates when how we function during our waking and sleeping hours, slight changes to this routine can have serious impacts on our bodies. When the quality of our sleep is altered, it will not only affect our energy levels but can also impact our mental health. For many feeling fatigued or sleeping more to compensate for sluggish energy levels is a common symptom of winter-onset SAD.
Changes in the seasons can also cause hormonal changes especially in regards to serotonin and melatonin. These hormones are all responsible for regulating our mood, sleep quality and our general feeling of well-being overall. When these hormones become unbalanced they can lead many of us to feel irritable, hopeless, anxious and unsociable.
Other symptoms that you may experience include loss of appetite, weight gain, loss of concentration and headaches. If this sounds like you but you never knew why you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
Coping With SAD: Easy Ways To Look After Yourself
The good news is that there are ways to relieve the symptoms of SAD and promote winter wellness both physically and mentally. Taking care of ourselves during this time of the year is vital and even slight lifestyle changes can go a long when treating seasonal affective disorder. If you have SAD or have a tendency to feel a little down in yourself during the winter months, try some of the techniques that we mention below. Our mental and physical health is our best asset so it is important that you give it the attention it needs at the time that it needs it most.
Light therapy can be very beneficial especially in helping us regulate our circadian rhythm during the winter months. As natural sunlight is decreased and winter is known for its dark dull weather, many people find that using artificial light in the form of a light therapy box helps to reduce fatigue and increase their feelings of wellness. This is due to the fact that light therapy is capable of stopping the secretion of melatonin which makes us feel lethargic. It is recommended that people suffering from SAD spend up to 30 minutes a day doing light therapy. Many feel that their symptoms are eased greatly after a week of treatment while others may decide to use it for the duration of winter.
Making the effort to get regular physical exercise is another proven way to help cope with the feelings of SAD. Even when we are feeling low, staying active can help to boost our mood. This can feel like an extra struggle to keep up during the winter months but even going outside for a walk can make a great difference. Experts suggest that you should factor in some time each day to do an activity that you enjoy and keep to this schedule. You don’t necessarily have to go out and take part in winter activities but rather you should make a commitment to continue exercising your body and staying healthy. Consider putting aside an hour to do some relaxing yoga stretches or hit the gym. Although you may not feel like doing this, it is amazing the differences you will notice in yourself after some exercise.
Additional stress on top of symptoms of seasonal affective disorder is not ideal so it is important that you take extra care of yourself during this time. Learning how to manage stress is vital for any stage during our lives but even more so when coping with SAD. There are many effective ways that you can do this. If your stress is work-related, make sure to talk to with your manager to see how some of this stress can be relieved. If the source of stress is personal, talk to family or friends and see if they can help. Unfortunately, not all stress can be avoided. When this is the case try self-care practices such as writing your thoughts in a journal, reading a good book or having a hot bath. Stress can a necessary evil in life but there are ways you can manage it so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.
Making sure that you continue to eat healthily during the winter months is an important part of coping with SAD. Weight gain is a very common symptom of seasonal depression and many people tend to avoid giving their bodies healthy and nutritious meals. Studies show that healthy eating is just as essential for our mental health as it is for our physical health. So, make sure your refrigerator is stocked up with plenty of nutritious ingredients.
Talk To A Professional
If you are really struggling to cope with seasonal affective disorder, talking to a trained professional can help. Whether a doctor or a therapist, speaking with a professional about how you are feeling can help you to devise a coping strategy. A professional may recommend that you do a treatment course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or take you might need to take a course of medication. Regardless, reaching out to a professional for help is the first step in helping you deal with SAD.
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Best Organic Vitamins & Supplements For Treating SAD
One of the most highly recommended vitamins and supplements to take for SAD is vitamin D. As the winter months means fewer hours of sunshine, it also means that our bodies aren’t capable of producing enough of the vitamin by itself. Not only does it help us to have strong and healthy bones but it can also reduce feelings depression. This is due to the fact that it is capable of regulating our moods. Additionally, taking a herbal supplement such as melatonin and a vitamin B complex can be effective for improving quality of sleep, managing stress and regulating hormones.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Be Kind To Yourself This Winter
Seasonal depression and seasonal affective disorder can feel overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. There are many techniques and treatment methods that you can use to help you cope with the symptoms of SAD. Most importantly of all, it is important that you be kind to yourself during this time of the year. Remember to practise self-care, eat healthily, exercise regularly and talk to your loved ones.
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