7 Ways to Treat Seasonal Depression
The Fall & Winter Months can be a source of Seasonal Depression.
As the days get shorter and shorter during the fall and winter months, our exposure to sunlight and time spent outside, unfortunately, becomes limited. This can cause many people to experience a drop in their mood during these seasons and feel more depressed, sluggish, and hopeless than they do in the spring or summer. It’s normal for the change in seasons to make us feel this way sometimes, but if these feelings are persistent, you might have seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a type of depression where symptoms intensify as the seasons change. Some symptoms include feeling depressed all day, nearly every day; having difficulty concentrating; experiencing changes in appetite; and feeling sluggish or agitated regularly as winter comes around. You might become more withdrawn, oversleep, or lose interest in the things you usually enjoy.
When you feel this way, it can be easy to feel trapped and limited by your depression. But there is hope! There are steps you can take to ease the symptoms and treat your seasonal depression, so it doesn’t get the best of you this winter.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
It’s important to first talk to your doctor about how you're feeling if you believe you might have SAD. From there, they can give you an official diagnosis and suggest a treatment plan that is best for you personally.
One thing they might suggest is prescribing you with antidepressants. During the winter, the reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin. Antidepressants, or SSRIs, can help increase the serotonin production in your brain and improve your mood. If you don’t want to be on medication, though, there are a variety of other alternatives to help treat SAD.
2. Light Therapy
Light Therapy is the #1 Recommended Treatement for SAD
Light therapy is the #1 recommended line of treatment for SAD. Our limited exposure to sunlight during the winter causes our bodies to produce more melatonin and disrupts our internal clocks, which can be harmful to our mental health. Light therapy exposes you to varying levels of light that mimic natural daylight while inside, so you can get the light exposure you need. This can reduce melatonin production and reset your body’s internal clock, helping you sleep better and ultimately feel better.The most effective way to receive light therapy is to use the light in the morning, as soon as you wake up. However, it is important to discuss a treatment plan with your doctor to get the most adequate plan. On average, people usually feel better within one week of using the light, but it can take up to 3 weeks for some.
Carex carries a variety of therapy lights that have been tested in clinical trials or meet the strict requirements for therapeutic clinical lamps so that you can find the best light for you.
3. Vitamin D
Not being exposed to sunlight in the winter can also cause a drop of vitamin D levels in your blood and may require you to take supplements to get the amount you need. Although taking supplements alone hasn’t been proven to treat SAD, it won’t hurt to make sure you’re in taking enough vitamin D during the colder months. It could give you the boost you need to help yourself in other ways.
4. Spend Time Outside
Of course, no alternative is better than exposure to actual sunlight! Even though it might be cold and cloudy, bundling up and taking a walk or simply sitting outside can help improve your mood during the winter. Consider getting up and getting outside within two hours of getting up in the morning or around midday, when there’s the most sunlight.
Seasonal affective disorder can cause an array of depressing and hopeless thoughts, and it can be helpful to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy can help you identify negative thoughts, so you can best work through and manage them. A psychotherapist can also help you identify behaviors that may be making you feel worse, such as avoidance and isolation, and teach you healthier ways of coping with SAD.
Although you may feel sluggish and lethargic, it’s important to take care of yourself and exercise regularly when you feel this way. Exercising releases endorphins, which can help relieve anxiety and depression and just overall make you feel good in a healthy and productive way. Getting in shape can also boost your confidence, breaking the cycle of negative self-talk that’s common with depression. Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 minutes a day, but smaller amounts of 10 to 15 minutes of more vigorous exercise, such as running, can also help ease symptoms.
When you’re depressed, especially during the winter months, you may feel more inclined to isolate yourself. But being alone with your thoughts can often make feelings of hopelessness and depression worse. It’s important to make a conscious effort to socialize and talk to the people that make you happy. Activities with friends or family can lift your mood and distract you from your thoughts, and when you’re feeling particularly down, those close to you can offer much-needed support.
Don’t write your depression off as simply something you have to suffer through this winter. It can be hard to do everything on this list, especially when you’re feeling down, but implementing one or two things can truly make a difference in helping you have a happier, more enjoyable holiday season.
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