It’s coming close to wintertime – some people love it, and some people hate it. Shorter days, colder weather, and not as much sun means serotonin and melatonin levels are down. For some, (5% of adults in the US to be exact*) this may cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), which is clinical depression that happens only during the winter months. It affects four times as many women than men (American Psychiatric Association).
It’s normal to feel sluggish, fatigued and unmotivated more so in the winter, but if it becomes a problem where you don’t want to get out of bed everyday or you become unmotivated to see friends or do things you normally love – as if everything feels stale and heavy – you may want to look into S.A.D.
Some of you may be reading this nodding your head knowing this is a constant problem for you every year.
What to do? Move to Hawaii every winter? Here are some tips that may help alleviate symptoms when it comes to S.A.D.
- Go the traditional route and seek the help of a psychotherapist or doctor, especially if the problem is severe. For this, professional help should be taken seriously so you can start feeling more like yourself again.
- Try light therapy – Phototherapy involves exposing oneself to light via special box or lamp. This device produces similar effects to natural light, triggering chemicals in your brain that help regulate your mood. For the full benefit, a S.A.D. patient needs to sit in front of it for 20 to 60 minutes a day, typically first thing in the morning, throughout the winter. Most people see improvement within one or two weeks, the American Psychiatric Association noted. Before purchasing the first one you see online, ask a specialist what the most effective and safe device is for you.
- Practice a healthy lifestyle – it can be tempting to curl up on the couch with a pizza and wine, but if you’re experiencing these issues, vegging out will only make things worse. Avoid drugs or alcohol, go outside everyday (even in the cold – it’s invigorating!), and eat brightly colored, whole foods. Hang out with friends and family and perhaps even dog or cat sit for the season to have a companion.
- Take a vacation – but be wary. You will feel incredible when you ARE in the sun, however the affects of coming back in the dead of winter may set you back. But if you’re aware of this, it might be a nice respite (and keep the light box on hand at home).
- Supplements – natural supplements may help, although it may not be the best treatment. Here’s what the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has to say about the following:
- St. John’s Wort – Small studies indicate it may improve some symptoms, however it may interact with medicines, such as antidepressants and contraceptives. It also may cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. (You can also try it on your skin, such as St. John’s Wort herbal body oil).
- Melatonin – Small trials suggest it helps with sleep, but long-term studies are lacking
- Vitamin D – This is not considered the best treatment, and high doses of Vitamin D may cause fatigue, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting.
The wintertime can be rough for everyone, but know you’re not alone. Treating this diagnosis seriously will give you greater relief knowing that it’s not to be taken lightly. And with anything else – winter passes eventually.
Thank you in advance for reading, commenting and sharing with love, compassion and kindness. You help make our cozy corner of the world wide web an awesome place!
Sending love, healing, and self care,
The Self Care Club Team