How to Combat Seasonal Depression
Don’t let seasonal depression spoil your holidays and family gatherings. Seasonal depression could be affecting your life for 40% of the year! That’s much too long.
What is seasonal depression? (You aren’t feeling down month after month for no reason)
Seasonal depression is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and is a subtype of depression and bipolar disorder. It is a disorder that is characterized by depression that increases as the seasons change, typically beginning in the fall and extending throughout the winter months.
Yes, it is an actual condition that is more than “the blues” Don’t wait until Spring to feel better!
According to Mental Health America, Five percent of the U.S. populations experiences seasonal depression, mostly affecting people between 20 to 30 years of age.
The symptoms of seasonal depression are nearly identical to chronic depression, sometimes making it difficult to differentiate between the two. If you only suffer from depression during certain months, and have a pep in your step the rest of the year, you are likely dealing with seasonal depression.
Signs and Symptoms:
- change in appetite
- weight gain
- sleeping more than normal
- difficulty concentrating
- irritability and anxiety
- increased sensitivity to rejection
- avoidance of social situations
- loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy
- feelings of guilt or hopelessness
- physical problems, such as headaches.
So, why does seasonal depression occur?
In the winter months the average amount of sunlight that you are exposed to decreases dramatically. Sunlight is linked to serotonin production, which is essential for a healthy brain. People with seasonal depression have been proven to have lower levels of serotonin through brain scans.
A lack of sunlight also means an increase of Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. This hormone, which can affect sleep patterns and mood, is produced at increased levels in the dark. When the days are shorter and darker the production of this hormone increases and it is linked to seasonal depression.
Also in the Northern States, Winters are long and cold. Many people do not go outside nearly as often as they would in the Spring and Summer. If you are leaving the house less often during the winter, this can lead to increased feelings of dread and isolation.
As we are nearing the Holidays, I don’t want you to pour yourself a cup of eggnog with a frown on your face my friend.
How can you combat the symptoms?
Eat healthy, nutrient rich foods. Avoid excess carbs and processed foods.
Yeah, I tell you this all of the time. How you feel is a reflection of how you eat, and serotonin is also produced in your gut. Excess sugar consumption leads to inflammation and depression. Make an effort to make lifestyle changes about the way you eat, not just diet for short periods of time.
Take your vitamin
You might not be getting all of the nutrients that you need, especially vitamin D from the sun. Also, in the winter everyone gets sick more often. Try to keep your immune system healthy and avoid unnecessary time being ill.
Most of us pack on the winter weight. It might be good for keeping warm, but not for keeping happy. Perhaps make some extra time to get to the gym this winter, you will thank yourself! Keeping active has amazing benefits for your mind and body.
Make some phone calls you haven’t made in a while, meet a friend for (healthy) lunch, or get a gym partner. Making time to get out of the house and see the people you love (especially in the cold months) is important. Keep your brain active!
Get Sunlight/ Light Therapy
This is one of the most difficult parts of the Winter months. On the brighter days, make an attempt to get outside for a while. If you can change up your work space, make an attempt to sit by a window (or open up that window that you already sit by). Some Doctors even recommend going to tanning beds in moderation in order to increase light exposure.
If like me, you are indoors a lot and not always able to work by a window, check out this nifty gadget on Amazon. It is a therapy light which is fantastic for the winter.
What are your favorite methods to cope with seasonal depression?
Happy Thanksgiving my friends!