Tips & Coping Skills To Prevent Falling Back Into Seasonal Depression
The time will be changing again soon and with that some mental health challenges can occur. On November 5, 2023, we will set our clocks back for the fall and winter months and with this comes shorter days and increased darkness. These shorter days can cause individuals to suffer from an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that usually begins in the fall and continues throughout the winter months. SAD is said to affect around 10% of the U.S. population.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Feelings of depression that happen most of the day, every day, in a seasonal pattern.
Having tiredness or low energy.
Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.
Changes in appetite or weight gain.
Sleeping too much.
“One hypothesis behind SAD is that reduced sunlight exposure interferes with the body’s biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones. Another theory is that lack of sunlight causes an imbalance of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which regulate mood.” (Berman, 2022)
The typical onset of SAD is most common in early adulthood. Around 75% of those affected are women. Treatments for SAD include antidepressants and light therapy. Vitamin D supplements can also assist in alleviating the symptoms of SAD.
- Tips To Beat Seasonal Depression
Light Therapy – Exposure to bright light first thing in the morning is very important. If you fool the brain into thinking that it’s a bright day early in the morning, the brain thinks it is summer. There are many products, such as bright lights, that you can purchase to sit in front of for 20-30 minutes each morning. These lights help fool your brain and can help adjust your brain’s circadian rhythm.
- When feeling down, consider doing a less overwhelming task that may help boost your mood.
-Spend time playing or talking with animals. If you do not have a pet, consider visiting or volunteering at your local animal shelter or snuggling with a furry blanket for a few moments.
- Activate your creative juices! Embrace making simple and easy-to-manage life changes. Rearrange a room in your home and take up a hobby like painting or coloring.
- Dawn simulators can help some people with SAD. These devices are alarm clocks, but rather than waking you abruptly with beeping or loud music, they produce light that gradually increases in intensity, just like the sun. Different models of dawn simulators are available. The best ones use full-spectrum light, which is closest to natural sunlight. Researchers found that dawn simulators were as effective as light therapy for people with mild SAD, according to a study published in 2015 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25885065/).
- If light therapy or psychotherapy doesn’t completely relieve your symptoms, prescription antidepressants may help you overcome seasonal depression.
- Find creative ways to stay connected with others. Stay in contact with your friends and family!
- Aromatherapy – using essential oils for therapeutic purposes may also help those suffering from SAD. Essential oils can potentially influence the area of the brain responsible for controlling moods and the body’s internal clock that influences sleep and appetite.
- Preparing for the fall-to-winter transition isn’t limited to your clothing and holiday decorating. Consider preparing your mind, too. It is important to allot time for mood-boosting activities that can help you feel physically and psychologically healthier. Regularly participating in these activities ahead of time is much easier than starting from scratch once the winter blues have already set in.
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Berman, Robby (October 7, 2022). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): How to beat it this fall and winter. Retrieved via https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/seasonal-affective-disorder-depression-how-to-beat-sad-2022-fall-winter.
Danilenko, K.V. (July 15, 2015). Dawn simulation vs. bright light in seasonal affective disorder: treatment effects and subjective preference. Retrieved via https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25885065/.
Mertens, Maggie (March 13, 2023). The surprising truth about seasonal depression. Retrieved via https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2023/03/seasonal-affective-disorder-winter-depression/673377/.
Orenstein, Beth W. (April 4, 2023). 14 Ways to ease seasonal depression. Retrieved via: https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/treatment/ways-to-ease-seasonal-depression/.Tags: Coping with SAD, SAD, Tips to handling SAD
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