Today’s post is written by our guest blogger, Kimberly Hayes, Chief Blogger for publichealthalert.info,
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a psychological condition provoked by a seasonal change that results in depression. While people can experience SAD at any time of year, the majority of cases occur in the winter when daylight is scarce. An accepted theory behind the cause of SAD is that decreased sunlight exposure directly affects a person’s biological clock and disrupts their regulation of hormones, neurochemicals, sleep, and overall mood.
Symptoms of SAD are akin to those of major depression:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in activities once previously enjoyed
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Reduced sex drive
- Changes in appetite and weight gain
If you are one of the millions of people who experience SAD in the winter, you don’t have to suffer until spring. Use the following tips to help balance your body and increase feelings of wellness all winter long.
Exercise is one of the most underutilized depression medicines available. When you work out, your body releases much more than sweat. Exercise triggers the release of several key neurotransmitters that promote a positive mood. Furthermore, working out releases endorphins, hormones produced by the central nervous system that relieve pain, improve focus, and instigate feelings of happiness and well-being. To get the most of your winter workout, try playing a sport. Whether it’s a game of pick-up basketball at the park or participating in an intramural league, taking up a sport combines exercise with socialization, another key to treating seasonal depression.
Check Out Alternatives
Although you shouldn’t stop taking anything prescribed by your doctor, there are natural remedies and supplements you can take along with your medication to help combat season affective disorder. One particular alternative has made headlines as of late: CBD oil. CBD (cannabidiol) is found in cannabis, but here’s the thing: instead of getting you high, it provides a “sense of euphoria” that has been shown to reduce inflammation, anxiety, and depression. In other cases, it’s also been shown to reduce seizures. While CBD oil may offer positive benefits, it’s always best to discuss this alternative with your doctor before you begin taking it.
Take a Break
If you have the freedom to travel this winter, take advantage of your vacation days by going somewhere warmer. Look into a beach resort or a Caribbean cruise, or try exploring someplace in the southern hemisphere where the summer months are happening. Not only will you get a boost of vitamin D, but traveling is great for your mental health. Sometimes, a change of scenery can help you shake off those winter blues, if even for a short time. When you come back relaxed and refreshed, you will be better able to handle the stresses of winter life, so you will have an easier time making it to springtime.
Light it Up
Since winter depression is directly connected to a lack of sunlight, it stands to reason that soaking in as many UV rays during the day as possible can help alleviate symptoms. However, for many people, getting out in the sun during the day is simply not feasible. Light therapy lamps were developed to address these people specifically. Light therapy attempts to bring balance back to the body and regulates the biological clock. It involves sitting before a lightbox or lamp in the morning for 20 to 60 minutes, depending on your individual needs.
Try using this time to meditate and reap the depression-alleviating benefits of meditation. Meditation helps train your mind to be more present within the moment, so it’s less likely to wander off toward dark or upsetting thoughts. People who meditate regularly are less stressed and more in tune with themselves as well as others.
While these are all great ways to help with seasonal depression symptoms, they may not be enough. If your feelings of depression become too much to bear, consult with your doctor or a clinical psychologist as soon as possible. Depression is an illness that necessitates professional treatment.
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.