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Combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder

November 16, 2017

 

Have the shorter, cooler days set a dark chill on your mood? There is a possibility that you could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, also commonly recognized by its acronym, SAD.

 

SAD is a form of depression linked with seasonal changes, usually striking individuals during the period between late fall and winter and, in a few cases, during the summertime. Although scientists haven’t yet been able to pinpoint exactly what leads to SAD, it is believed that lower level of sunlight and its impact on us is largely to blame. Reduced sunlight is known to cut our serotonin and Vitamin D levels, both of which are important to mood, as well as disrupt melatonin levels in our body thereby affecting sleep. As well, the shorter, darker days disturb our body’s biological clock which helps conduct several bodily functions as well as tells us when to eat and sleep.

 

These fluctuations in our body can lead to a number of SAD symptoms, including feelings of sadness, fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep (i.e. feeling sleepy during the day or not being able to sleep well), and loss of interest in activities that one would generally enjoy.

 

There is no doubt that these symptoms can be very unpleasant and frustrating to experience, however, the good news is that we can take various steps to alleviate symptoms of SAD. Here is a list of some of the things that you can try if you are suffering from the winter blues.

 

- Exercise and eat healthy. As tempting as it might feel to hibernate and devour boxes full of holiday sweets and drink multiple cups of eggnog and hot chocolate, remember that what you eat and how you treat your body will have a direct impact on how you feel. Make sure that you are eating enough fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein as well as maintaining a regular exercise regimen.

 

- Take in as much natural light as possible. Spend some time outside as often as possible and allow natural light inside your home and office spaces as much as possible. Spending more time outside, especially when the sun is out, can help up your Vitamin D and serotonin levels.

 

- Use Light Therapy. Light therapy involves sitting close to a special light therapy box (can be purchased at many stores) for about 20 to 30 minutes every day, usually within the first hour of waking up. The light from the light box exposes you to bright light in a similar manner to sunlight and is considered to be quite effective in treating SAD.

 

- Practice self-care. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Spend some time doing meaningful and enjoyable activities with your family, friends, and pets. Practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness are also beneficial for improving mood and lowering stress and anxiety.

 

- Consult your doctor and/or a mental health professional. If you experience any SAD symptoms for several days at a time, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will also let you know whether or not light therapy might be suitable for you. In moderate to severe cases, the doctor may recommend counselling or prescribe medication. 

 

Sources:

Orlov, A. (2014, December 6). 9 Ways to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com

Seasonal Affective Disorder. (2017, October 25). Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.org

 

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