Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of major depressive disorder characterized by periods of depression that come and go with the seasons. While it’s possible to experience periods of summer depression, most people experience SAD symptoms in the winter, beginning in the autumn and lasting until the days begin to lengthen again in the spring. There’s a lot doctors don’t know about seasonal affective disorder, but they think it happens because the short days and long, dark nights of the winter season disrupt the body’s natural rhythms.
If you’re one of the more than 500,000 Americans who suffer from SAD symptoms in the winter, there are steps you can take to feel better. Light therapy can help reset your body’s natural rhythms, but treatment can also involve talk therapy and medication. Eating right, exercising, and getting out in the sunlight during the day can also help. Taking a trip to an equatorial region, or even relocating to a milder climate, can also help relieve SAD symptoms.
1. Get Professional Help
If you think you have seasonal affective disorder, the first thing you should do is seek professional help. Your doctor may recommend you take antidepressants like Wellbutrin or Abilify to help keep your SAD symptoms in check. You may need to begin taking these drugs several weeks before your SAD symptoms normally begin to appear, since antidepressants typically need some time to build up in the system. You can save money on your prescriptions by filling them at Canada Drug Pharmacy.
Light therapy is another commonly accepted treatment for SAD. Some evidence suggests that SAD sufferers do better when exposed to blue-spectrum lights, rather than full-spectrum lights. You can choose to use a light box or a light visor, which is smaller and more portable — the important thing is that you need to face the light with your eyes open for a recommended period of time. Dawn simulation, in which a light-emitting device gradually increases in intensity over a period of up to 90 minutes in the morning, can help mitigate symptoms by simulating the earlier sunrises of the warmer months. Talk therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, can help prepare you for the onset of next winter’s symptoms and can be effective at preventing symptom recurrence, especially over the long term.
People experiencing SAD symptoms often have cravings for carbohydrates, but it’s important to resist those cravings and maintain a healthy diet. Indulging carbohydrate cravings can cause weight gain, but that’s not the only reason to avoid them. The food you eat can have a profound effect on your state of mind.
Instead of indulging in sugary foods that cause wild swings in blood sugar, eat high-fiber, protein-rich foods and complex carbohydrates that help keep your blood sugar stable. A consistent blood-sugar level helps keep your mood consistent, too. Foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for the production of serotonin, may even help boost your mood. Try eating more egg whites, turkey, and milk, since these foods are high in tryptophan. Other good foods to eat include lean meat, fruits, whole grains, and high-fiber cereals. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can cause anxiety, muscle tension, and low mood.
3. Get Some Fresh Air
Getting outdoors, especially in the morning, is a great way to mitigate SAD symptoms. Try to get some outdoor exercise between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. If you can’t get outside, sit by an open window. If morning exercise outdoors isn’t possible, try to get out for a walk at lunch. Even if it’s an overcast day, you’ll still soak up sunlight that can do wonders for your mood.
Some research suggests that exercise is just as good as antidepressants for treating major depressive disorders, including SAD. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins and may improve your mood by boosting production of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Experts recommend exercising for 30 to 60 minutes at least five days a week. Find an activity you enjoy, like jogging, skiing, walking, or playing team sports.
5. Take a Vacation
Many people cope with SAD symptoms by taking a holiday to a warmer climate during the worst of their seasonal depression symptoms. If you’re experiencing seasonal depression symptoms, a trip to an equatorial region should bring relief of your symptoms in a matter of days. Many people feel so much better that they decide to relocate to a sunnier region. If this is an option for you, it could be the best way to deal with your seasonal depression symptoms, especially if you are suffering from chronic SAD.
If you’re experiencing seasonal depression symptoms, get help. Light therapy, medication, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help you cope with your symptoms. However, self-care is an important part of overcoming seasonal affective disorder. Diet and exercise can help you triumph over feelings of gloom, and a tropical vacation could make the winter season much more bearable.