By: Isabella Vargas
Editor: Esthefany Castillo
As the days get shorter and colder weather approaches, many people begin to struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), which is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. This disorder usually starts during the late fall or early winter, and is less prevalent in the spring and summer. S.A.D affects 10 million Americans, yet there is a huge lack of awareness because like many mental health topics, it’s taboo.
The causes of S.A.D. are directly linked to a lack of sunlight and a decrease in serotonin and vitamin D production. Reduced exposure to sunlight during winter days, disrupts the body’s natural balance and causes us to feel less energetic.
Symptoms of S.A.D are very similar to the signs of depression. Both disorders require patience and a willingness to learn ways to cope with the lasting effects.
Little to no energy
Lack of motivation
Issues with sleep - lack of sleep or excessive amounts
Changes in eating habits
Feeling easily irritable
Frequent negative thoughts
Desire to stay in bed all-day
Low interest in going outdoors or engaging in activities
You are still capable of living a content and fulfilled life, despite experiencing signs of depression or seasonal-type depression. Don't brush off this yearly feeling, as simply a funk that you have to get through on your own. Take the necessary steps to keep your mind elevated throughout the year.
If you believe you were feeling down in the past, during the winter months, here are some great solutions to alleviate lower moods brought on by cold days.
Doctors have claimed that the results of phototherapy are as effective as an antidepressant. One of the reasons that make this kind of therapy so helpful, is the exposure to light in the early morning. You can buy a phototherapy lamp that mimics the sunrise and will help to regulate your circadian rhythm.
Another way to receive more sunlight during the winter months, is by using a dawn simulator. The name of this device might confuse you but it is simply another form of phototherapy. Specifically, these simulators are alarm clocks that slowly wake you up with light that grows by the minute, mirroring the rays of the sun. If you are interested in purchasing one of these alarm clocks, I recommend buying one that uses full-spectrum light, which is the closest to natural sunlight.
Exercise can be used to combat just about any emotion you might be feeling. Research suggests a light workout can boost your energy, which releases a positive feeling throughout our body. It may be difficult to get active, especially if you’re dealing with S.A.D., but once you begin to work out, you’ll feel brand new. If you want to start your day with a positive mindset, try to incorporate our 7 morning stretches into your daily routine. Take advantage of being in the comfort of your home or safe space and show your body love with these quick and easy yoga poses.
Get The Vitamin D Your Body Is Craving
Some individuals with S.A.D., may be experiencing low blood levels of vitamin D, which naturally comes from sunlight. To increase your vitamin D levels, I suggest putting on lots of layers and heading outside to catch some rays of sunlight while the sun is shining. Go for a short walk or a run in the park, for at least 20 minutes. You can even get vitamin D from home since there are plenty of nutrients in certain foods we eat everyday. There are also vitamin D supplements that you can take, which have been found to improve depression symptoms.
Aromatherapy Candles & Essential Oils
Essential oils can create a soothing environment and leave us feeling refreshed at the end of a long day. Certain scents are known to help relieve stress, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and promote restful sleep. A few soothing scents are lavender, vanilla, eucalyptus, jasmine, and chamomile. If you're interested in using essential oils, I recommend the Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser. It has an LED light with every color and you decide based on your mood. You can take aromatherapy a step further by adding a few drops of essential oils to a bath at night to promote relaxation or burn a candle that is infused with essential oils to promote mental stability and clarity.
These are suggestions to help alleviate any sadness and/or anxiety you may feel when seasons are changing. However, if you feel this is not enough, making an appointment to speak with a mental health professional could help you better understand what is going on. Depending on your situation they will be able to give you the best options for treatment -- whether that be alternative medicine or traditional medication. The most important thing is to seek professional treatment if the way you feel, is interfering with your life.
Whether you associate with SAD or not, it’s important to know that the symptoms are not that different from those of depression. If you remember feeling this way around the same time last year, and maybe even the year before, take action and feel better this winter, more than you ever have before.