What Is seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of seasonal depression that strikes toward the end of fall and continues through the winter months. Typically SAD is a winter depression, but in some cases the seasons are reversed and people struggle most during the sunnier months.
Having spent most of my life in sunny Colorado I generally underestimated seasonal depression, but then we moved to Cleveland, OH and everything changed. I had my first baby and my husband started his Internal Medicine residency at the Cleveland Clinic. As summer passed and the skies turned perpetually grey, winter depression hit me hard and fast. I found myself feeling especially sluggish and losing interest in activities that would usually excite me. Luckily my husband was on the lookout for signs of depression and quickly helped me find some simple solutions.
How to spot the signs of seasonal depression
You may be facing winter depression if you:
- Feel depressed most of the time
- Lose interest in actives you usually enjoy
- Experience unexplained weight gain or loss
- Have low energy
- Struggle to sleep
- Feel sluggish or agitated
- Cannot concentrate
- Feel hopeless, guilty, or worthless
- Have thoughts of suicide or death
These signs are serious and shouldn’t be ignored. Seasonal affective disorder is more than just the “winter blues” so be sure to talk to your doctor if the symptoms persist.
Simple treatments for seasonal affective disord
If you are experiencing a number of the symptoms listed above then you should definitely go see a doctor and talk to them about the best way to approach winter depression. However, there are also some simple home remedies you can try that that may go a long way in helping you get back to your normal self. When I battled SAD I found that home treatments were enough to pull me out of the fog.
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- 1Try a Happy Light! Research has shown that decreased levels of sunlight affect your circadian rhythms and cause you to feel more depressed. Happy lights and full spectrum light bulbs imitate natural sunlight and help get those rhythms back on track. It’s recommended that you use the light in an area where you tend to spend a significant amount of time. Try putting a happy light at your desk or change out the lightbulbs in your kitchen with full spectrum bulbs.
- 2Stay Active. Staying active during your day is one of the best ways to combat depression. Research has repeatedly shown that the endorphin release of physical exercise has a huge impact on depression. Find tools that make physical movement feel accessible throughout your normal day. Switch to a standing desk during the winter months so that you don’t feel lethargic.
- 3Stay Connected. When depression strikes it’s easy to isolate yourself, but staying social and connecting to the people close to you is an important part of maintaining your mental health. Studies have shown that a larger support group makes behavioral changes easier so be open about how you are feeling. Support from your friends and family is essential to getting you back to your normal self!
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Keep in mind that seasonal depression is nothing to joke about. If your symptoms persist or you have thoughts of self harm then see your doctor immediately. Seasonal Affective Disorder can strike down even the strongest of us, but thankfully there are some simple home treatments that may help significantly with getting you through the cold winter months.
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