This time of year can take an emotional toll on all of us. Days are short, sunshine is scarce and our schedules are jam-packed. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and normal to have days when you feel down. Pay attention to signs that might indicate you’re suffering from seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and take steps to avoid it.
Pay attention to signs that might indicate you’re suffering from seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and take steps to avoid it.
Signs that you may be suffering from seasonal depression
- Lack of interest in normal activities
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Craving for carbohydrates
- Weight gain
Seasonal depression, often called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall, worsening in winter, and ending in spring. It is more than just “the winter blues” or “cabin fever.” It’s a serious disorder that impacts 6 percent of the population. If you are among that 6 percent, and you experience any of the signs above for more than a day or two, talk to your health care provider.
And, while we all wait for the days to get longer and the season to change, we can benefit from simple tips to feel better and avoid this temporary condition.
Tips to avoid or alleviate seasonal depression symptoms
- “Be bright” – make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open the blinds, sit near the window and replace light bulbs in your home or office with those that simulate natural light.
- Get outside in the open air every day – it’s nature’s therapy.
- Exercise – nothing is better for improving your mood and overall well-being.
- Get organized – getting your tasks in order goes a long way toward helping you feel in control of your environment.
- Go out and be social – surround yourself with friends and loved ones. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
- Decrease carbohydrates in your diet – keep your blood sugar steady to avoid fatigue and irritability.
- Increase your omega-3 intake – this helps maintain healthy levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
- Take vitamin D – the “sunshine vitamin”, long touted for maintaining good bone health, also boosts levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
- Plan a winter vacation and head for the sun! Just going through the planning process will boost your spirits and give you something to look forward to.
Above all, be patient. The winter solstice—the shortest day of the calendar year—falls on Dec. 21, 2014. Days get incrementally longer after that, with a few additional moments of light each day until the summer solstice in June. Before you know it, you’ll be buying sunscreen for hot summer days!