Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the "winter blues," is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Seasonal depression typically occurs when the seasons change and most symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months.
We've compiled this short (yet useful!) list of strategies that will help you fight the effects of SAD this winter.
What is Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder?
Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that affects people during the winter months. Sufferers experience mood changes and symptoms that are similar to depression, with symptoms usually occurring during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight. The symptoms are usually alleviated with the arrival of spring and it’s longer days and warmer temperatures.
It's thought that about 5% of adults in the United States experience SAD, with symptoms typically lasting about 40% of the year. It is more common among women than men.
Strategies To Combat SAD
1. Start Moving!
When you’re feeling down and out, the last thing on your mind is exercise, as it doesn't seem to hold much importance. This attitude may be hard to let go of, but it has to change! Exercise will vastly improve your mood and has the added benefit of keeping you fit and healthy. This doesn’t mean you have to go and run a marathon or climb a mountain—these implementations in your routine can be gradual and more importantly, fun! Some ideas include:
- Hit the gym: The gym can be an excellent way to stimulate endorphins that make you feel better and relieve stress. If you're exercising with a friend or group, this can provide you with social interaction that alleviates the effects of depression and isolation which are common with SAD.
- Use the stairs: If your apartment or workplace has an elevator, consider using the stairs instead. It's a quickfire way of fitting exercise into your day that doesn't involve a trip to the gym or expensive workout clothes.
- Coffee to go: If you love to have coffee in the morning, a great way to combine exercise and your morning coffee fix is to put your coffee in a mug and go for a walk. A short walk can keep you fit, healthy, and also provides time for you to gather your thoughts and enjoy some fresh air.
- Reach out to a friend: Spending time with friends raises our mood levels significantly. Organize activities with them as often as you can, such as going to a movie, attending a sporting event, or even playing a sport together! Try to limit activities such as going to bars, as alcohol can be a problematic substance if you are feeling depressed.
2. Change Your Viewpoint
We know winter can seem long, dark, and dreary, but it's easier than you think to transform your opinion of this seemingly unforgiving season. Try to think of the new activities that are only available during the winter such as snowboarding, snowshoeing, or ice skating. Winter only comes once a year for a limited time, so try to appreciate the unique nature of the holiday season and embrace it for the little time it’s here.
3. Improve Your Diet
SAD can make you crave sugary foods and simple carbohydrates such as pasta and white bread. Try sticking to complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and bananas, as these can boost your serotonin levels without the subsequent sugar crash. Foods that are rich in certain omega-3 fats, like oily fish, walnuts, soybeans and flaxseeds, can improve your mood and have the potential to boost the effectiveness of antidepressant medication.
Turn to Voyage Healthcare
This time of year is supposed to be a happy time for us to come together with the ones we love. Take time for yourself and your mental health in order to be completely present with the ones you love.
If you find that you or a loved one is battling a mental disorder, we are here for you. At Voyage Healthcare, we provide a wide range of services. We recommend starting with your family medicine provider. They will work to get you the help you need to get on a path to a healthy lifestyle and positive mental state. Call or visit our website today to schedule an appointment at one of our four convenient metro locations.