Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depressive disorder that affects an estimated 5 percent of the U.S. adult population. Most people who experience SAD begin to feel melancholy at the onset of autumn and continue a decline in mood and energy throughout the winter months.
Up to 20 percent of the adult population may experience SAD-like symptoms. Some go on to develop the full disorder while others simply feel down as less daylight is available. In either case, no one wants to feel depressed, especially during the busiest holiday season of the year. If you have SAD or SAD-like symptoms, try these tips to help combat the blues:
- Get regular exercise. Exercise signals the brain to release endorphins, which are nature’s original antidepressant. You don’t have to enlist in marathon training to reap the mood-lifting benefits of exercise; a therapeutic swim in a heated pool or a brisk walk around the park can work wonders.
- Turn up the lights. Experts still aren’t entirely sure what causes SAD, but they do believe that the body’s biological response to the shorter days plays a role. The less light you are exposed to, the more melatonin the body makes. Melatonin aids in sleep regulation by making you feel sleepy when it’s dark. Investing in a good light box or simply spending more time outdoors when there is light may help you feel better.
- Pay attention to your nutrition. Lots of water, combined with plenty of fruits and vegetables, will give your body the nourishment it needs to operate optimally. Rich sources of energy, such as leafy greens, bananas and nuts, are better used by the body than carb-rich comfort foods. If you notice that your symptoms tend to worsen around the holidays, it could be partly because of the plethora of festive feasts. Enjoy these meals with a sense of moderation, then be sure to give your body plenty of good, clean-eating time.
- Take up a hobby. We tend to become more dormant in winter months because it’s simply too cold to play outside. However, an idle mind can become your worst enemy. Explore indoor hobbies, such as crafting or learning to play an instrument, which can help you pass the time till spring. Choose something you enjoy to bring extra happiness to your days rather than just picking the first thing you find for the sake of staying busy.
- Talk to your doctor. Sometimes, SAD can become severe enough that medical intervention is both wise and necessary. If you begin to become detached from friends and loved ones, have a hard time getting out of bed or have thoughts of suicide, it’s time to get help. Your doctor can give you the medications that are right for you to get you through the season.
SAD can be difficult to live with, but it doesn’t have to rule your autumns and winters. Your lifestyle choices play a huge role in your overall mood, so make them good ones. If you’ve done everything you can do and still don’t feel better, don’t hesitate to call a doctor. There is no shame in SAD, and help is available.