If you’re feeling low and find yourself counting down the days until spring, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s a cyclical form of depression typically affecting people in the fall and winter seasons. People who suffer from SAD often experience increased sleepiness, decreased energy, a loss of interest in activities that the person usually enjoys, increased appetite, and difficulties with focus and concentration.
People with SAD are unable to “just snap out of it,” as family and friends may suggest to them. There are, however, a number of tips that can help you overcome SAD. Here’s a look at a few.
Focus on Consistency Through the Transition
If you’re feeling depressed, some find it helpful to focus on the things that remain consistent even as the seasons change. Even little things such as the fact that you get a shower each morning, your roles in life (as a parent, spouse, child, or sibling), or the town in which you live can be effective in helping you feel grounded.
Get Out and About and Active
According to LiveScience, a 2007 study by researchers at Duke University found that exercise can produce similar results as medication for patients with major depressive disorders such as SAD. While you may not feel like leaving the house, forcing yourself to get outdoors and take a brisk walk or adopting a more strenuous exercise regimen can help to alleviate symptoms. And if you have a four-legged friend, be sure to bring them along. New studies are showing just how beneficial our pets can be for our health. Spending some extra time with your pooch at the dog park or taking them on a walk around the neighborhood can help boost your mood and reduce stress.
Get the Right Amount of Sleep
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do to overcome the symptoms of SAD. That’s because both too much sleep and too little sleep can have detrimental effects on your mood and overall well-being. Many people with SAD experience increased fatigue in the winter, but sleeping for an extra few hours each day can have the opposite effect, actually leading to more feelings of depression and exhaustion. At the same time, you do want to ensure that you’re getting the seven to eight hours of sleep most people need to thrive.
Take Vitamin D Supplements
You should always check with your physician before taking any vitamins, minerals, or herbal supplements, but an added daily dose of Vitamin D can be an effective way to overcome the symptoms of SAD. Sunlight helps the body produce its own Vitamin D, so people with SAD often have a Vitamin D deficiency during the winter which contributes to fatigue and other symptoms. A simple daily Vitamin D supplement can help combat these issues.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Exercise has endless benefits, especially for those suffering from SAD. It can boost your mood, reduce chronic pain, and even help you sleep better. Whether you reignite your passion for a sport you loved in high school, join a gym, or try something new like Zumba or yoga, find an activity you enjoy and make it part of your routine. Making your exercise regimen an activity you’ll actually look forward to will increase the chances you’ll stick to it. Enlist a dependable workout buddy to keep you motivated and focused; besides, it’s way more fun to train with a partner cheering you on!
Understand the Benefits of Light Therapy
Depression is closely linked to serotonin levels in the brain, and light can actually affect the receptors in the brain that produce serotonin, thus leading to SAD as levels become lower during the winter months. Those who suffer from SAD often experience relief from symptoms through light therapy, or exposure to artificial light produced by a light box for 30 minutes or more each day, depending on the length of time your doctor recommends.
SAD has a substantial impact on daily functioning, but it doesn’t have to take control of your life. These tips will help you overcome the sadness, fatigue, and other symptoms of SAD that plague you during the fall and winter months.
Jennifer Scott has experienced anxiety and depression since she was a teen. With SpiritFinder.org, she hopes to share her story with others and in doing so empower them to take steps to improve their overall wellbeing. In her free time, she loves to write, spend time with animals, and is always up for an adventure.
**PHOTO CREDIT: Image via Flickr by Emily**