Winter has come, and you’re beginning to recognize a few mental health symptoms. You’re off seeking tips for seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder can be subtle but impactful. You might not have recognized the signs of seasonal affective disorder until recently.
About 6 to 7% of Americans suffer from this condition. If you’re familiar with clinical depression (or even if you’re new), then that’s an eye-opening statistic – one in fifteen people could be suffering at any given time! 1 in 5 adults has a mental health condition.
De-stressing is an important part of beating seasonal affective disorder. Chronic stress can initiate mental health symptoms if left unchecked. It doesn’t matter if you’re using tips for seasonal affective disorder or tips for anxiety; you need to find some way to de-stress.
The suggestions listed below are useful tips for beating seasonal affective disorder.
However, they need to be paired with natural remedies (like the ones listed) and self-love techniques like meditation and yoga. Of course, always consult a doctor before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle – especially if you have been diagnosed with any mental illnesses. Mental health has become a recent priority in the medical world, despite the imbalance of accessibility of resources.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes in a specific pattern. For most people, SAD starts during the autumn months and continues until springtime. Seasonal affective disorder is likely caused by the reduction of sunlight during those months, which could affect a person’s serotonin levels.
Serotonin is recognized as a neurotransmitter that affects mood. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression. Melatonin is another neurotransmitter that stabilizes sleep patterns. It can affect a person’s circadian rhythm, being out of sync with the external clock against the internal one.
A depressive episode with seasonal onset is defined as beginning during the same season each year for at least two years. If you experience this type of depression, you will likely suffer from symptoms like sadness, weight gain, fatigue, irritability or anxiety before a new season.
How Common is SAD?
SAD is very common, affecting between 5% and 10% of the population. In fact, 4 in 5 people who have SAD are women. Generally, the further away you are from the equator, the higher the risk of developing a seasonal affective disorder. Scientists still require more research on SAD to fully understand the condition.
Seasonal depression tends to develop in late adolescence or early adulthood, but it can emerge at any time during your life. Seasonal affective disorder is more prevalent in individuals with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Surprisingly, SAD can run in families, which is more common with those with other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
How Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder should be made by your primary care doctor or mental health professional. You will also probably be asked whether you have experienced a major depressive episode before. SAD rarely occurs during the summer months.
Other important questions include:
- Do symptoms occur during the same time each year (i.e., fall and winter)?
- Have prior episodes occurred at the same times of the year?
- Have there been any other seasons when you did not experience depression?
If you answer “yes” to these questions, then seasonal affective disorder may be present. The diagnostic criteria for SAD are similar to those for regular depression, except that the disturbance must last at least two years in adults and one year in children. Depression is diagnosed if the symptoms last for more than two weeks.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder could include:
- Sudden loss of interest in all usual activities
- Depressed mood, hopelessness
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Loss of libido
- Decreased interest in physical contact
- Excessive sleeping
- Craving for carbohydrates
How Long Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Last?
The typical length of a depressive episode is about two to three months. But some people experience symptoms for much longer periods (up to months or years) with gradual improvement. Sometimes symptoms return for shorter or longer periods throughout life.
Here are Several Tips for Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Keep your bedroom as dark as possible at night. The less light you expose yourself to before bedtime the better.
- Take vitamin D supplements or spend time in a tanning booth.
- If you have another room available to you where there aren’t any windows or access to daylight, try doing this instead. If not, simply wear an eyeshade while you’re awake at night.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. These can disrupt sleep patterns. Caffeine takes around six hours to metabolize in your system.
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Dehydration can make you even more tired during the day.
- Keep a diary and track your symptoms. Getting a better idea of what triggers it for you can be helpful in coming up with coping strategies.
- Eat a healthy diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink less sugary drinks and alcohol, practice portion control.
- Spend time outdoors as often as possible.
- Take frequent breaks from working or studying to enjoy some sunshine.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day four times per week.
What Are Some Natural and Medical Ways to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder?
If medications don’t suit your lifestyle, you may be curious about natural ways to treat seasonal affective disorder. One method of combating SAD symptoms is to expose yourself to bright light. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can also help you find ways to deal with SAD, and some studies have shown it may be just as effective as medications for treating the disorder.
Exercise helps improve circulation which can help boost energy levels, Plus being active will help release serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. These chemical messengers are responsible for mood stabilization and pleasure sensations.
Light therapy involves using a special lamp that emits intense light similar to natural sunlight either in your home or outdoors during the winter months when there’s less direct sunlight available. Light therapy has indicated the suppression of the brain’s secretion of melatonin. Although, there is no definitive research finding that demonstrates the antidepressant effects. Antidepressants might be considered if light therapy is not as effective.
Aromatherapy could be a viable option for beating seasonal depression. Cut back on caffeine if you’re suffering from insomnia or feeling anxious, which are common side effects of SAD.
Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night to help fight off seasonal affective disorder. Some tips for improving your quality of sleep include practicing relaxation techniques before bed, not watching TV shortly before bedtime, and establishing a routine to promote better sleep habits.
How Does Seasonal Affective Disorder Affect Substance Use?
Those suffering from a substance use disorder may be affected by seasonal affective disorder. People with a substance use disorder often struggle with depression or anxiety, which are common side effects of SAD. This can lead them to self-medicate. Roughly 50% of all people with a mental health disorder will experience a substance use disorder at least once.
Co-occurring disorders are a recurring element in addiction recovery. Co-occurring disorders can be characterized by a combination of mental health and substance use disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment is required to manage the symptoms of both disorders.
Alcohol is a common substance abused by those with seasonal affective disorder. Since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it slows down the responses in the body. Additionally, alcohol is common in social activities that surround the holidays. If you have an alcohol use disorder, this period can be difficult to manage cravings. Alcohol misuse can lead to depressive symptoms.
Stimulants might draw those affected by seasonal affective disorder. The fatigue and depressive symptoms could influence a person to rely on stimulants to feel “normal.” Once the high of the stimulants wear off, this can intensify the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Marijuana is another substance used by those with seasonal affective disorder. Marijuana is used for its calming and euphoric effects. Individuals with SAD might isolate themselves from others. Marijuana use can enhance the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, such as lethargy and depression.
The Value of Self Care
Developing a self-care routine is critical for managing the symptoms of mental illness, particularly on how to beat seasonal depression. Living in the hustle and bustle of our modern world requires breaks and moments of reflection. Getting swept up by our daily stressors can lead us down twisted paths. Self-care can incorporate many different practices and strategies.
Some tips for developing a self-care routine include:
- Setting aside time to do something you enjoy every day
- Starting a gratitude journal
- Writing in a personal diary
- Practicing mindfulness meditation
Everyone knows that exercise is important but many people simply don’t have the time or energy to incorporate this into their daily schedules. Taking the time out of your day to work out is one of the best tips for beating seasonal affective disorder.
Some tips for getting started with exercising include walking at a local park, joining a gym or wellness center, biking or jogging around town, and doing yard work or housework at home can all be effective exercises for fighting off depression symptoms.
Recover Through Intrepid Detox
Bracing the holidays can feel like another hopeless attempt to maintain your mental health. Seasonal affective disorder affects a specific portion of the population but that does not mean there aren’t options for you. It might be tempting to rely on substances to pass through these depressive symptoms. Understand that you can beat seasonal depression. Intrepid Detox aims to provide support during these challenging times. If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, contact us today.