Seasonal Affective Disorder- How to avoid the Winter depression
Updated: Mar 3
Seasonal Affective disorder- How to avoid the Winter depression
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. For most people, it starts in autumn and winter and then resolves in spring. SAD is thought to be linked to a lack of sunlight and it interferes with your life by sapping your energy and causing general fatigue.
Seasonal affective disorder is often referred to as winter blues or seasonal depression. It is a type of depression related to changes in the weather and your biological clock. People who are affected by SAD often feel like isolating themselves until a change in seasons occurs. Usually in spring. However, this isn't a viable solution for just anyone. In UK sad affects around three percent of the population each year. With approximately other 15 percent experiencing milder forms of the syndrome. Often this disorder impacts children and teenagers, with females having a higher propensity to experience it at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
If there's a history of depression in the family, individuals have a higher risk of experiencing SAD in their lifetime. A research study conducted by Oxford University has found there are many methods to minimize the effects of SAD for those who experience the following symptoms:
· Sleeping a lot but still tired
· craving sweets and carbs
· low energy levels
· no interest in your favourite activities
· trouble concentrating
· feeling sad irritable or anxious
· appetite changes including increased cravings for sugary or starchy foods
· avoidance of people or activities previously enjoyed
· daytime fatigue
· difficulty in concentrating
· feeling tense or stressed
· insomnia or sense of feeling tired all the time
· lowered sex drive and desire for physical contact
· sadness, guilt or overly critical of one's self
· sense of hopelessness
· weight gain.
Ways to minimize SAD
Meet with a healthcare practitioner:
Discussing medical treatment or support from a qualified healthcare practitioner can be a useful first step in identifying the ideal treatment option. SAD is a treatable disorder where healthcare practitioners can provide resources to build resilience prior to months where SAD is at its peak. Some of those suggestions include:
1. Light therapy :
When using light therapy, results have shown relief for between 60 to 80 percent of those who suffer from SAD. Sitting for 30 minutes in front of a special fluorescent light that simulates natural outdoor light can help improve an individual's mood and energy levels. The best time to use this form of therapy is in the morning so an individual can reap the benefits throughout the day. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be used in conjunction with light therapy and this is a form of therapy that has the task of replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones.
2. Self Help
According to some, the most effective way of treating the symptoms of SAD is self-help. There are many ways available outside of professional medical health, such as:
· regularly exercise
· good sleeping habits
· healthy diet
· staying connected with others
· working towards a more balanced lifestyle
· avoiding alcohol and being aware of your caffeine intake as both alcohol and caffeine can affect your sleep and make you feel groggy and grumpy
· drinking enough water
· building routines to get you outside during the day
· trying to find opportunities for a brief outdoor walk during daylight
· keeping a journal can help you to deal with the negative feelings - the best time to write is often at night, as it allows you to reflect on all that happened during the last 24 hours
· rearrange your space to maximize exposure to sunlight throughout the workday.
· try to keep the curtains open during the day and position yourself to face natural light where possible
· resist the urge to eat unhealthy sugary or high carbohydrate foods - although often craved when experiencing sad symptoms this can increase depression and weight gain
If you experience further increasing SAD symptoms, take a vacation. Look for sunny destinations, save throughout the year to alleviate potential financial strain, and if symptoms of sad can recur after you return home, take vitamin D supplements or eat foods high in vitamin D such as soy, salmon, eggs, fortified yoghurts and opt for fresh orange juice as a beverage.
Since getting more sun exposure is dependent on the weather and daytime saving hours, change your diet during the autumn and winter to help you get the vitamin D you would typically receive from sun exposure and try to spend more time outdoors during the day. It is recommended to spend outside at least 30 minutes a day, with at least 8 minutes before 11am. This can help your body absorb enough vitamin D to help improve your overall mood.