Seasonal depression is a type of depression that is common in the winter months. The most widely reported symptoms include feeling down, being irritable and having low energy. Unlike other types of depression, seasonal depression goes away after the winter. Still, it can make the long winter months even more dreary and lonely. This is why it’s important to take the appropriate steps to counter the symptoms of seasonal depression.
What is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression is also known as SAD - seasonal affective disorder. It’s a type of depression that’s related to changes in the seasons. For most people, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months. They also tend to start at the same time every year. Come spring and summer, the symptoms usually disappear.
Seasonal depression is often compared to the winter blues, but it’s more than this. The symptoms are more severe and believed to be caused by a drop in serotonin levels. By developing healthy habits and seeking professional help, you can manage gloomy symptoms during the fall and winter.
How to Tackle Seasonal Depression
There are several things you can do to improve your mood and energy levels in the winter. Below are the most common treatment options for seasonal depression.
Wake up earlier
Even though there is less sunlight in the winter, there’s still enough to keep your serotonin levels up. You may have to wake up earlier to get it, though. Set your alarm 15-20 minutes earlier and grab a brisk morning walk outdoors. If it takes you longer to wake up, grab a cup of coffee while watching the sun come up.
Get a light therapy box
If you can’t make it outdoors, bring the light to you. A light therapy box emits artificial light that is much brighter than ordinary light bulbs. By sitting next to a light box for 30 minutes a day, you can boost your mood and fight the symptoms of SAD.
Increase your vitamin D intake
When the body is exposed to sunlight, it naturally creates vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a key role in regulating the mood. In the winter when you’re getting less sunlight, you can become deficient in this vitamin and suffer mood changes. Increase your intake of foods that are rich in vitamin D, such as salmon, eggs, mushrooms and fortified cereals.
Stick to a sleep schedule
People with seasonal depression often have trouble sleeping, which can worsen symptoms. Promote healthy sleep by following a consistent sleep schedule, exercising daily and avoiding the use of digital devices at least one hour before bed.
Eat a healthy diet
It’s tempting to indulge in comfort foods, but these are usually made from lots of sugars and starches. Instead, focus on foods that are hearty and nutritious so you get the vitamins and minerals you need. Soups, stews and smoothies are some of the best foods you can eat in the winter.
Avoid staying cooped up all day, even though it may be your first instinct. Enjoy winter activities like skiing, sledding or ice skating. Spend time with friends and family to see movies or visit local museums. When at home, play board games or do arts and crafts. These activities are mentally and socially rewarding, plus they will tire you out and help you sleep better.
Seek professional help
Although some people can fight seasonal depression with the tips above, others need more. If you’re not feeling better, contact a professional right away. You may be a candidate for antidepressants and talk therapy.
For people in recovery, seasonal depression can be especially dangerous. It can interfere with your recovery and make it harder to stick to your recovery goals. If you need help treating SAD or managing your symptoms, contact Awakenings Treatment Center today.