By Larissa Beecher
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, a fitting abbreviation) or seasonal depression, is depression that only occurs, or chronic depression that intensifies, during certain seasons. SAD typically affects people during the late fall and winter when the temperatures drop and there is significantly less sun and light during the day. SAD is characterized by the following symptoms, as listed by the Mayo Clinic:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, even just one or two, you know that it can be extremely challenging to motivate yourself to be as productive or motivated as you may be in the warmer weather. You may find that these tips, in addition to seeing a therapist if you need more extended help and treatment, may alleviate some symptoms, or at least make the weather a bit less miserable for you.
Light therapy: You can purchase a specially-designed, bright light to sit in front of. They are designed to positively influence your circadian rhythm and the chemicals released within your brain.
Go outside: Take advantage of the sun when it is out! Put on a couple sweatshirts and a few pairs of comfortable pants (I swear by two pairs of socks), and go out and sit on your front steps or take a walk. Or, if it’s just too cold, open your blinds and let the sun in.
Exercise, especially outside: Exercising has been shown to improve negative mental health symptoms. Although exercising may be the last thing you want to do if you are feeling depressed, remember that our bodies are built to move.
Warm, nourishing food: One perk of the cold weather is being able to eat warm foods. I love to let a soup, filled with vegetables and legumes, cook all day.
Reduce blue light: The blue lights inside of our technology, like televisions, computers, and your phone, can mess with your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep at night. If possible, try and reduce your technology use at night, and turn your phone off at least an hour before bed.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a vitamin that we absorb from the sun’s rays. I recommend asking your doctor if your vitamin levels should be checked, as you may be deficient.
Reach out to friends and family: When you are experiencing depression symptoms, it can be easy to isolate yourself from your loved ones. Please do everything you can to prioritize spending time with people you care about.