Feeling SAD (seasonal affective disorder)?
It might be due to the seasons changing
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You’ve been feeling down lately and you can’t really pinpoint why. You’re tired all day, even after getting a full 8 hours. You feel burnt out or like you’re in a rut. You’re reaching for carbs and snacks more than usual. Along with sadness or feelings of helplessness, all of these may be symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, with the appropriate acronym of SAD.
What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
Sometimes referred to as seasonal depression, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to the changes in seasons. It typically starts in the late fall or early winter and subsides as spring and summer approach again. Although much less common, it can occur in the summer months as well.
What causes seasonal affective disorder?
The biggest factor that contributes to SAD seems to be the reduced sunlight that comes with shorter days during the fall and winter months. Who knew the sun had such an impact on our mood?! The vitamin D deficiency disrupts our circadian rhythms, as well as throws our serotonin and melatonin production all out of whack. It’s more common in women, young adults, and people with depression or bipolar disorders.
Symptoms of seasonal depression
- Having low energy (fatigue)
- Weight gain
- Appetite changes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in activities
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Junk food cravings
- Social withdrawal
If you think that this sounds a lot like depression, that’s because SAD is a form of depression but the difference with SAD is the association with seasons. These symptoms usually come on when the weather turns cold and the days get shorter. So if you find yourself experiencing or start experiencing these symptoms with the weather change, it’s likely SAD.
How to get through seasonal depression
With the pandemic this year and most people working from home and staying indoors more, it’s likely more people will experience SAD. Here are some suggestions on how to combat SADness during the fall and winter months.
During the colder months, it might be harder to sit by the window or go outside for a walk to get the sunlight you need to stave off seasonal depression. To supplement the lack of light during the window months, try light therapy. The artificial light will help make up for the lack of sunshine during the fall and winter months. Studies have shown that light therapy is an effective treatment for SAD, with most people seeing improvements within a couple of weeks of using it every day. Try this light therapy lamp from Amazon.
Activities like meditation, yoga, or music therapy can help improve your mental well-being and help manage overwhelming anxiety and depressive feelings. We love the Headspace app for easy to follow daily meditations.
A type of psychotherapy or talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been adapted to treat SAD by using the basic techniques of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones and identifying activities that are enjoyable to help manage symptoms.
Because of the low exposure to sunlight, people who suffer from SAD have shown low levels of Vitamin D in their blood. While it’s likely not feasible or safe to jet away to a warm destination for a sunny vacay right now, you can try a supplement like the one from Real Mushrooms to get the vitamin D you need.
A healthy lifestyle
Exercise has proven to be an effective remedy to stress and anxiety overall and it can also help with SAD symptoms. Taking care of yourself should be a high priority regardless. Working out, getting your full 8 hours of sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, and practicing self-care will all help boost and recharge your energy.
Talking to a professional about what you’re feeling can help you pinpoint and work through the root of these overwhelming feelings. If you’re ever unsure about what you’re feeling or if you think you might be depressed, it’s important to talk to your doctor so they can determine the best course of action for you.