The holidays and seasonal change can quickly lead to S.A.D. (seasonal affect disorder.) So, if you’re feeling a little under the weather this season, you are not alone. In fact, more than 3 million people suffer from seasonal malaise each year.
Physical health is important but so is our mental health and the level of energy we need to exercise. If we’re down mentally, we tend to lack motivation or drive to get out and move. So, what is S.A.D.? Seasonal Affect Disorder is when patients encounter major depressive episodes brought on by seasonal change, primarily during winter.
Weather Effects: Rain, Snow & Sunshine
While some are fortunate to live in Southern California where the weather is nearly perfect year round, others are not so fortunate. On the flip side, Californians miss out on the four seasons. Meanwhile, other parts of the country are hit hard with temperamental weather. Whether it’s grey stormy skies promising a very wet day or being stuck indoors due to heavy snow days, weather can and does affect our mood.
Snow, Snow & More Snow
During grad school, I lived in Upstate New York. Let’s just say there were many days my Prius was literally covered to the roof in the snow. The weather was so frigid it reached 30 below zero on the coldest days.
Now as a Californian, I do miss the snow but don’t miss living in it 9 months out of the year. However, if uprooting your family to a more sunny location isn’t an option, there are pro-active steps you can take to combat S.A.D.
Winter months can make you feel like hibernating, while it is tempting to do so it only makes S.A.D. worse. Motivation can freeze up, along with the frigid temperatures outside. The thought of shoveling snow and dressing in layers might sound like a chore.
How To Combat S.A.D.
Seasonal affect disorder is manageable by taking the right proactive steps. Regardless if it’s the gloomy grey skies or the dreary snowstorm or black-icey road, staying healthy is important.
Light Therapy: Lack of vitamin D from the sunlight can make depression worse. During daylight savings when the winter months make the days shorter and nights longer, depression can set it. This is because sunlight helps to boost serotonin levels in the brain. According to research, low serotonin levels are linked to depression.
It’s great if you can regularly get out in the sun. But if sunshine is lacking in your neck of the woods, there are special tools available that mimic sunlight. Yep, some residents of Barrow, Alaska use light therapy because it’s dark 65 days out of the year.
Vitamin D Supplements: Taking vitamin D supplements is said to significantly improve symptoms of depression in S.A.D. patients. In fact, one study shows that vitamin D supplements are more potent and effective in repelling depression then phototherapy.
Can Food & Exercise Boost Your Mood?
Good Mood Foods: Consuming foods rich in nutrients and vitamins help to give your mood a boost. Likewise, eating processed, fried, high-calorie, fast foods is a recipe for a mood slump. In addition to consuming vitamin-rich foods, taking a daily multivitamin is advised. You can’t go wrrong investing in your health, because a great daily multivitamin ensures you are getting the daily nutrients you need.
Exercise: Regular exercise helps with depression as confirmed by 25 separate studies. Regular exercise, even 20-30 minutes, can help ward off depression. Exercise helps to increase endorphins, get the blood moving, and is as effective as antidepressants, according to a Harvard article.
Medication & Talk Therapy: There’s nothing wrong with needing antidepressants in conjunction with talk-therapy. This is especially true if you’ve tried a variety of alternative or holistic approaches.
Final Thoughts: See A Doctor
Seasonal change plus the stress around the holidays can be stressful enough let alone dealing with S.A.D. If you are susceptible to depression around the winter months, don’t be afraid to see a doctor and put your health first!