As we’re headed into the fall and winter months, it’s important to remember that the rain, cool weather, and grey skies can greatly impact some people’s mood.
If you find yourself becoming depressed in the winter months (or if your depression worsens then), you just might have seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. This form of depression is likely brought on by changes in weather and the reduction of daylight hours that happen in the winter months. If you have SAD or think you might, here are some tips for managing symptoms.
Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Use Artificial Light
Bright light therapy is often one of the first treatments used for SAD. Wondering do sad lamps work? The research has found that they do. The "bright light" used isn't the same as light from your typical lightbulb. It's significantly brighter, and it's designed to mimic the wavelengths of sunlight. As a result, your brain thinks you're being exposed to sunlight, and the symptoms of SAD can begin to improve. This therapy usually comes in the form of a light box, and you'll typically start to feel better when you sit in front of it for as little as 20-30 minutes a day.
Make Time for Social Activities
Often, when you get depressed, you tend to become socially isolated. That isolation tends to worsen the depression. To help break this damaging cycle, make sure you regularly schedule a fun social activity or two. Social activities can be simple things: going out to lunch, taking a walk in the park, or playing a sport with family and friends can all be helpful.
Exercise can sometimes help take the edge off of other forms of depression, so it may be helpful when it comes to dealing with symptoms of SAD. Following a regular exercise routine also may reduce your risks of gaining weight, a common concern among SAD sufferers. Outdoor exercise is especially helpful, but if it's too cold outside, you can still benefit from exercising at a gym or even at home.
Take a Break From Your Routine
Setting and following a routine is generally good for mental health. But if you're able to, taking a short vacation can be helpful. In particular, traveling to an area with a warmer climate can significantly reduce your symptoms.
Of course, taking a vacation isn't always an option. You might choose to take a day or so off work for a "staycation." You can still stay at home but opt to travel to interesting places nearby. You can also do fun activities with your family or friends.
Keep a Daily Journal
Writing in a journal each day can help you gather your thoughts and reflect. But when it comes to SAD (and even other mental health conditions), journaling may be able to help you identify any trends in your mood and identify potential triggers for depression. And if you find yourself struggling with depressive thoughts or other negative feelings, sometimes just writing them out can feel therapeutic.
Talk to Your Doctor
Like other mental health conditions, SAD needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. A knowledgeable doctor can help you determine whether you're suffering from SAD or another form of depression. From there, they can suggest therapies and new habits that may help your symptoms. In some cases, your doctor might even suggest temporary medication to alleviate your symptoms during the winter months.
Get Plenty of Vitamin D
We get a good bit of our daily vitamin D from sunlight. But when you're indoors in the colder months, you have much less exposure to sunlight. Research suggests that insufficient vitamin D may make you more likely to experience depressive symptoms.
During the winter months, it may help you to eat more foods rich in vitamin D. Salmon, sardines, and herring are all good sources. So are most dairy products, orange juice, mushrooms, and soy milk.
See a Therapist
If SAD is having a major negative impact on your life, don't be afraid to ask for help. Therapy is one component of most treatment plans for depression. A therapist can assist you in taking the first steps toward feeling better.
Check Your Magnesium levels
Magnesium is essential for brain health. Research has found that low levels of magnesium may lead to depression. Scientists aren't quite sure of the link between magnesium and depression. But, it definitely is a good idea to have your magnesium levels checked if you have seasonal affective disorder. If you do have low levels of magnesium you can supplement with an easy injection. This injection contains a combination of magnesium as well as calming amino acids, which can also help with anxiety.
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