How To Shake Seasonal Affective Disorder
Getting Out of the Shadow of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Autumn approaches, and for some, the season creates reason to fall under the shadow of depressed moods, and more broadly, seasonal affective disorder.
When, Why, and How?
Similar to those found in patients with bipolar disorder and clinical depression, symptoms take root during particular periods of the year and usually beginning in the fall.
The reduced levels of sunlight affect our internal circadian rhythms. For some, that means feeling sluggish, depressed, and moody.
Those who already need to regulate serotonin levels are prone to lower levels in the fall and winter.
Lastly, a good night’s sleep is integral to well being during the day and waking hours. But, reduced light can deplete the body’s level of melatonin, making us restless and wanting of sound rest.
Doctors, researchers, and psychiatrists recognize seasonal affective disorder (SAD), by observing similar patterns in reported cases. The following patterns are shared by a significant number of SAD patients.
– More females are diagnosed with SAD and report a ‘valley’ of moods during the fall and winter.
– Living far from the equator creates a radical range of seasons with half the year seeing a lot of sunlight and the other days with hardly any light or none at all.
– As with depression, those with a family history of seasonal affective disorder or mood swings feature SAD symptoms.
– Due to sharing symptoms with clinical depression, those already diagnosed with associated disorders overlap with a SAD diagnosis according to season.
How to Avoid It
Since a root cause of the ongoing mood is a lack of light, those affected purchase light boxes. You don’t need a prescription to buy one and you can use it at home and work to improve your mood during dark seasons. A number of ‘sessions’ throughout the week is reported to improve moods and temper SAD symptoms.
Summer and spring months invite reason to go outside, yet those who ‘need’ to be outside in the winter months shouldn’t shy away from opportunities to get out. Whether it’s jogging, hiking, or a daily commitment to a walk around the neighborhood, it’s important to get outside and in the light while there’s time.
Stock up on Vitamin D and socialization during the fall and winter months. Since you’ll be inside more often, create reasons to socialize and see people at parties and gatherings. The influx of Vitamin D will help counter the lower levels of body-produced melatonin.
Those who suffer ongoing or feel irregular for a substantial amount of time go see professionals who can help counsel patients through tough periods and prescribe the appropriate medicines to treat symptoms of depression and SAD.
It’s a Matter of Perception and Persuasion
Cognitive-behavioral psychologists help patients with changing perception and subsequent behaviors. The negative feelings toward the winter season are replaced with positive feelings and associations to newfound hobbies or social rituals.
The fall and winter offer less sunlight, so schedule sunny vacations (positive associations) and activities (a fall/winter hobby) to occupy your time and eradicate negative associations and feelings about the season.
If you traditionally feel sleepless, give your body more reason to feel rested by investing in a new mattress, comfy pillows, and a soft comforter. Drink nighttime teas and do things (exercise/read) that make you feel exhausted during the evening hours.
Students and Scholars
For students, the fall season means new classes, teachers, and challenges. Aside from part time jobs, a love life, and maintaining your living quarters and body, it’s a full load, and often overwhelms those who are not mentally prepared.
Aside from chasing longer days across the globe, you need to accept that you may feel stressed and overworked anyway, on top of having less sun in your life.
Rather negative associations to the season prepare to make the fall and winter positive by shifting your perception and persuading yourself to do more to stay happy and healthy.