As the weather cools down and the seasons change, Seasonal Affective Disorder is one topic that needs to be discussed among the general population. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more than a feeling of being down in the dumps.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
The cold, winter weather and shorter days limit the warmth and light that is available from the sun, leaving many people feeling tired, irritable, or melancholy. If these symptoms recur each year in the winter months and go away in the spring and summer, then it could be an indication of SAD.
This form of depression occurs at the same time each year and is sometimes referred to as seasonal depression. Not only do the symptoms affect your mood, but they can also have an impact on appetite, sleep, and energy levels. It is common for people suffering from this disorder to find that the symptoms take a negative toll on all aspects of life, including school, work, social interactions, relationships, and self-worth.
Do you find that you feel like a different person in the winter months? If you are struggling because you are feeling stressed, tense, sad, or hopeless for no reason, then it could be an indication that you need help. Another common indication is a lack of interest in friends or activities that you usually enjoy.
Why You Should be Proactive with Self Care
SAD affects an estimated 1 – 2% of the population, with young people and women being at higher risk. A less severe form of winter blues can affect as much as 10 to 20% of the population in cold climates.
Unfortunately, when these symptoms occur, too many people self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to alleviate the discomfort. Instead of seeking professional help, it is common for people struggling with depression, such as SAD, to slip into addictive behaviour. If the symptoms of SAD are co-occurring with substance abuse, then it is a good indication that it’s time to find treatment.
Counteracting Seasonal Depression
The idealistic image of winter is snuggling up by the fire, drinking a warm glass of cider while the snow is falling outside the window. This imaginary picture usually shows a person feeling peaceful and joyful in the situation. But, the reality is that many people don’t feel quite so cheerful. Instead of cherishing the light of the holiday season, they are caught in a dark place that makes it difficult to control their moods.
Just because you are feeling gloomy in the winter, doesn’t mean that you can’t change your results. Self-care should be a priority. When you give yourself the physical, mental, and emotional support that is needed, then it becomes easier to minimize the symptoms that might pop up in the winter season. Try these proven self-care options for combating SAD:
- Light Therapy: Since we don’t get much exposure to the sun during this time of year, therapeutic fluorescent lights can be used to help with mood management. The light has a positive impact on serotonin activity that happens in the brain, increasing vitamin D production.
- Sleep Habits: Poor sleep can contribute to symptoms of depression. At the same time, depression might contribute to poor sleep. Be consistent with your sleep schedule by maintaining a regular schedule, creating a relaxing, comfortable environment (free of digital lights and technology), and following a routine to indicate to your body when it is time to go to bed.
- Exercise: Get your blood pumping with regular exercise. Choose an activity that you enjoy, such as running at the gym, fitness classes, yoga, or anything else that helps to increase your heart rate. Regular exercise has been proven to lower stress levels and increase mood, helping to counteract the symptoms of SAD.
- Essential Oils: The use of aromatherapy has increased in recent years due to the effective results that can be achieved from these plant-based extracts. Certain oils, such as lavender, bergamot, ylang-ylang and roman chamomile, can help to reduce cortisol levels helping to decrease overall stress. Add a drop or two of essential oil on your pillow before bed, diffuse the oils in your home, or add a few drops in a bath.
- Talk Therapy: Don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist that provides talk therapy. These treatments can be used to change negative thought patterns into productive focus and behaviour.
The most important step is to find self-care habits that fit your preferences and lifestyle. Also, don’t hesitate to search for services from rehab facilities if you are facing the challenge of co-occurring mental health disorders and addiction.