Winter months typically bring about shorter days, causing our lives to naturally slow down. We find ourselves watching movies more & cooking comfort food at home. However, some people feel the slump more than others. When does your indoor winter blues become recognized as Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that reoccurs during the same season. Some individuals have SAD in the summer, spring or most common winter months. Anyone can experience SAD, however it is more common in women between the ages of 15 – 55. As you age, the likelihood of having SAD decreases. Along with this, individuals who live far from the equator have a higher chance of experiencing SAD due to the shorter days with less sunlight.
What causes SAD?
Although there is no definite cure for SAD, researchers & doctors alike have found clues that could cause this tricky disorder. Serotonin, a chemical in your brain that affects mood may be related to SAD. Individuals with less serotonin or who have trouble regulating the chemical may be more inclined to have SAD. Studies have shown that people with SAD have higher serotonin levels in winter months than summer. Another factor may be the overproduction of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Melatonin production increases during darker periods, therefore as winter days become shorter, the levels of melatonin increase. Therefore individuals with SAD are more inclined to feel sleepy and sluggish.
What to look out for:
- Lack of interest in hobbies
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or anxious
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Lack of energy
- No interest to socialize
How do you care for SAD?
We all experience days in the winter where we feel unmotivated or anxious. If your symptoms seem to disrupt your daily lives, it is best to seek professional help. Seek immediate help if you find yourself using alcohol to cope or if you experience suicidal thoughts.
A great option to consider is light therapy. It essentially triggers chemicals in your brain that affect your mood by exposing yourself to a special light box or lamp. This treatment has proven to work for individuals who experience winter SAD because it compares to natural light, creating the idea of increased sunlight. Another option to consider is incorporating foliage into your home, stimulating the idea of nature and relaxation. With nature indoors during winter months, your plants need energy like you do. Pair them with the Aspect for museum grade lighting and sunlight for your plants to thrive along with yourself.
Individuals with SAD can highly benefit from talking to a therapist. These discussions can identify unhealthy patterns in your life as well as negative thinking and behavior tendencies. This can result in learning about positive coping methods for symptoms. They can also teach relaxation techniques in order to restore and maintain vital energy during the winter months. If you or someone you know is experiencing SAD, consider convenient, affordable and private counseling online with BetterHelp.com. Online therapists are readily available to talk at your leisure while providing beneficial discussions to improve your well-being.
There are antidepressants for people with SAD such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and bupropion. As with any mental health issue, there is no one size fits all. Individuals react differently to certain medications, so you may need to try a few different options before you find the right fit. It is important to remember too, that medications take time to improve your symptoms, so patience is important.
In addition to seeking help from professionals, you should consider these lifestyle adjustments. In order the lift your spirits, try going outside more, exercising when you can, get plenty of sleep and practice relaxation methods.
It’s always important to live your life as healthy as possible, so plan ahead. Remember, these symptoms take time to improve, so working day by day to live healthier is not a bad idea. Brush it off and move onto the next day with a positive attitude, spring will be here in no time! Asking for help shows strength and determination towards improving your personal health and an overall better version of yourself.