How to combat seasonal affective disorder
With the days shorter, if you work a 8-5 job, the chances of you enjoying any sunlight is slim to none. As the sunlight gets slim, our mood seems to take a plunge, but there are ways to combat seasonal depression.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter can cause a drop-in serotonin that zap your energy and make you feel down.
Dr. Stephen Manlove, MD with Manlove Health says, “Season affective disorder is very common, most people have a little but of it, I mean you might notice that even if you are not depressed, you might not have quite as much energy in the winter or quite as much motivation. It might be easier to go home and watch TV than go for a walk.”
Signs of SAD may include: low energy, oversleeping, appetite changes (especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates) or social withdrawal.
Dr. Manlove recommends taking steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year, which may include taking Vitamin D supplements and investing in light therapy. Expose yourself to full spectrum lights for 30-60 minutes a day (the same benefits cannot be found in UV lights or a typical light bulb).
Make a point to get outside – bundle up and take a walk (stick to an exercise routine) and stay social.
Manlove says, “Staying engaged socially, you know, don’t just hole up in your house on Friday night. Find a friend and do something with them or have coffee with someone once a week that you like, you know, do social things – that always helps depression.”
Also continue to eat well, don’t start binge eating poor choices. Eat a vegetable-focused diet. Develop a mediation routine and get an adequate amount of sleep.
Medications or psychotherapy are also options for more severe cases.
Manlove says it does take discipline and planning ahead as depression makes you less motivated, “One of the things that I talk to people about, pretty regularly is … we’ve already had almost two months of winter, so what is your strategy for getting through here? Don’t just kind of hope that it goes well — make a plan.”
It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.
You may be more prone to SAD if these factors pertain to you:
- Family history — People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.
- Having major depression or bipolar disorder — Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
Take signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder seriously. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse and lead to problems if it’s not treated.
Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if SAD is diagnosed and treated before symptoms get bad.