It’s November and we’re entering the last bit of fall; the leaves have turned and the scents of mint and chocolate have joined mulled spices to welcome winter and the holidays. And although this time of year tends to be thought of by many people as one full of joy and nostalgia, that happiness doesn’t translate to everyone.
Revisiting Seasonal Affective Disorder
Within the mental health community there is often a concern about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression. As Daylight Savings Time ends and the sun sets by 5 p.m. some people, especially those prone to mental health issues, may begin to exhibit symptoms of SAD, which include:
- Low energy
- Agitation and anxiety
- Challenges with sleep
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Changes to weight and/or appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
Unlike most depression, people who live with SAD tend to see a full recovery once the days are longer in the spring, summer and early fall months. Incidences of SAD can sometimes be attributed to biological factors, such as a decrease in Vitamin D, but most often it is the absence of sunlight. This winter depression affects nearly 20 percent of the American population and as we’ve previously covered what Seasonal Affective Disorder is; we’d like to focus more on practical steps to dealing with the challenges it presents.
5 Tips to Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder
1. See the natural light
Having an intense work or school schedule may make you think this is impossible, but snagging even a few minutes in the sun does wonders for your mood. Take breaks and step outside; even if you take your lunch, on days it’s warm enough, eat outside to expose yourself to the positive effects of the sun. Take necessary precaution to protect your skin!
Exercise is a great way to deal with mental health issues year round. If you’re able to take a walk or jog outside you’ll be able to get time in the sunlight while improving your cardiovascular system. Weight training also has great value in your regimen. Often there are debates about which form of exercise is best, aerobic or isometric?
Each person is different and bodies will respond differently; the main point is to get out and get moving. Continued exercise helps to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter known for its association with mood.
3. Take Vitamin D
Recent research has shown the link between a number of physical ailments and lack of Vitamin D. With decreased sun exposure in the winter months, traditional synthesis from sunlight is down. Adding a good supplement during this time is a great idea.
Recommended daily amounts can be found on the National Institutes of Health website, where it’s broken down by sex and age range. As with any medication or supplementation, it’s best to discuss with your physician or psychiatric professional to determine what amount is best for you.
4. Eat your way to an improved mood
It’s holiday season and for many food is a big part of this time of year. As you enjoy your favorite comfort foods and sweets consider adding key fruits, vegetables and spices which can help your body enter its best chemical balance. This is an especially important consideration for those who take medications. Vitamin C, magnesium, turmeric, ginger, paprika and cinnamon have all been shown to affect health and mood for the better.
5. Sleep smart
Insomnia and fatigue can be a big part of dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder. When you have trouble sleeping it affects all parts of your life, from mental and physical health to performance at work and school.
As difficult as it may initially seem, training your body to go to bed and fall asleep a little earlier and consistently each night helps. Your body becomes disciplined to the schedule you set for it. Be sure to wake up near the same time each day too; choosing to sleep in on days your body needs the additional rest.
As we mentioned SAD tends to pass as the seasons change; but taking care of your mental health is always a priority. At Holiner Psychiatric Group we offer many services including treatment for depression, eating disorders, chemical dependency and we also offer psychological testing. To set up an appointment or to learn more contact our Dallas office or our team in McKinney.