Tips for Coping with Seasonal Depression
If you have experienced seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you know how challenging and oppressive it can be. Shorter days and shifts in weather can take a massive toll on your mood and make it difficult to function at your best. It is important that those who have experienced symptoms know that they are not alone. Resources are available to help, and there are some adjustments you can make to your own daily routine that may help you cope. Read on for tips on coping with seasonal depression.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression. It is usually brought on by changes in daylight hours that disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. It may also be triggered by changes in hormones like serotonin and melatonin, which regulate mood and sleep. Seasonal affective disorder affects between 4-6% of Americans, and around 20% are affected by a more mild form.
Symptoms of Seasonal Depression
Some common symptoms of SAD include:
- Changes in sleep habits
- Low energy
- Shifts in appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness
Work With a Doctor
Whether you are diagnosed with SAD or are struggling with a less intense form of seasonal depression, working with an experienced psychiatrist for depression is important. Your doctor can help you talk through your feelings, develop daily practices to improve your mood, and may even prescribe medications that can help with your feelings of depression. They can diagnose the issue accurately and ensure you have access to the treatment you need to feel better and function at your best.
Reach Out to Friends and Family
During the winter, it is easy to want to stay home. Cold weather and shorter days make it less appealing to spend time in public socializing. However, social interaction can be a positive and healthy distraction from your negative feelings. Engage with the people around you in whatever setting you feel comfortable, even if that just means inviting people to hang out at your house.
Consider Light Therapy
One of the main reasons people feel depressed during the winter is the absence of light. During daylight hours, try to spend as much time as you can outside. Take walks and run errands before the sun sets. There are also various types of specific artificial lights you can purchase for your home, like a vitamin D lamp. These lights emit UVM light that help your body produce vitamin D. There are other kinds of SAD lamps with a range of light intensity levels. It is recommended that you sit in front of your lamp first thing in the morning, angle your lamp away from your line of sight, sit 12-24 inches away from it, and avoid looking at it directly.
According to a study from the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, essential oils may help reduce symptoms of depression and other issues like sleep problems and anxiety. When it comes to seasonal depression, essential oils may help stimulate the area in the brain that is connected to mood and the body’s internal clock. Try an oil diffuser, candles, aroma sticks, and incense. These can also help improve your home’s environment in calming and relaxing way.
Take a Vacation
If you can, plan a trip to break up the long winter season a bit. You may be able to schedule this around the holidays or spring break, depending on how cold it is in your area. The anticipation and excitement can help lift your spirits. A warm-weather destination is ideal, but anywhere you can be with friends and family is a good place to be to help with seasonal depression.
Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is thought to be a potential cause for depressive symptoms. Accordingly, increasing vitamin D in your diet could be a good way to combat SAD and seasonal depression symptoms. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include:
- Orange juice
- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil
- Cremini mushrooms
- Fortified yogurt
You can also take a vitamin D supplement each day to increase your intake. Talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet, especially if you have any preexisting medication conditions or are taking any medication.