Seasonal Affective Disorder– or S.A.D.– is a form of depression that impacts an estimated 10 million Americans. While some people experience S.A.D. in the warmer months, it generally occurs in the winter when the days are shorter and people are exposed to less sunlight. There isn’t exactly one known cause of S.A.D., but researchers suggest the effects that a lack of sunlight have on the body are connected.
The natural cycle of your biological clock is controlled by what is called the circadian rhythm. Shorter days disrupt that rhythm, leading to fatigue and moodiness. Furthermore, the lack of sunlight can affect levels of serotonin, melatonin, and vitamin D. There are also a few risk factors that contribute to S.A.D., such as a family history of depression, being a woman, and living far away from the equator.
Here’s everything you need to know about S.A.D. – and what to do about it – courtesy of Hesychia Coaching.
Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder and Addiction
People who suffer from depression often seek to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol as a way to escape their feelings or console themselves. Because of this, people who experience S.A.D. are at a greater risk for developing an addiction. Substance abuse doesn’t just affect the body physically, but it also has the potential to make the symptoms of seasonal depression worse.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Symptoms of S.A.D. include:
- Physical problems, especially aches and pains
- Feelings of depression and hopelessness
- Decreased social activity
- Increased emotional sensitivity
- Anxiety and irritability
- Lack of focus
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Increased appetite and weight gain
Treating S.A.D. with Lifestyle Changes
If you think your winter blues are actually seasonal affective disorder, in addition to living a holistic lifestyle, make an appointment with your doctor to talk about it. While there is a good chance you are feeling depressed because of the season, these symptoms can also signal a more serious illness, such as a thyroid disorder. Once you talk to your doctor, you can come up with an effective course of treatment. Your physician may suggest the following to help you recover from S.A.D.
- Meditation. This is a great practice for everyone, but can be especially beneficial to those suffering from S.A.D. To make sure you’re able to completely relax, set aside some space (remember to keep it organized to help eliminate stress, anxiety, and negative energy that disorganization can trap) in your home to meditate or simply spend a quiet few minutes alone. Flood it with as much natural light as possible and a houseplant or two; like sunlight, Laidback Gardener notes that natural greenery can also offer a mental boost.
- Try to get as much sunlight in your life as you can. Open up the curtains and let it inside. Bundle up and go on walks throughout the day. Sit by a window whenever you are working or reading.
- If natural sunlight is hard to come by, you can try using a S.A.D. lamp that mimics U.V. rays to help boost your vitamin D levels and regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Livestrong.com suggests exercising more to boost your brain’s serotonin and endorphin levels, which also help beat the winter blues.
- Be sure you are getting enough sleep, but stick to a schedule. Your brain needs regular rest to function properly.
- If you can, take a vacation during the winter to a sunny location where you can escape the humdrums of cold and dreary weather.
- Consider adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet to help improve your mood from within. Vitamin B supplements may also help improve your mood.
- Eat a healthy diet full of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Limit sugars, starches, and saturated fats that can make you feel groggy and run down.
- If lifestyle changes are not improving your symptoms, talk to your doctor about taking a mild antidepressant that can help.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that affects millions of people every winter. The symptoms and risks of S.A.D. are similar to major depression, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be treated the same way. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and the lifestyle changes you can make to help beat the winter blues.
Hesychia Coaching is here to help you navigate your way to a more empowered life of Self-awareness, purpose, and gratification. Call today to arrange for your free exploratory session! (276) 698-0996
(this article was written by guest contributor, Julia Mitchell)