Sun Behind the Clouds: Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder
Once the holidays are over and the winter cold sets in for a few more months, many people feel gloomy and find themselves wishing for spring. However, there are also millions of people who find themselves suffering from a severe form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. While the exact cause of this is unknown, it is thought that the lack of sunlight may disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm.
Symptoms of SAD include:
- Classic depression symptoms like low self-esteem, anxiety, and obsessive worry
- The inability to feel happy about anything
- Cravings for carbohydrates
Here are some ways that people who suffer from SAD can cope with the feelings of depression:
- Therapy: Because SAD is a form of depression, speaking with a mental health professional can be the best way to diagnose it and determine the best steps to take moving forward.
- Light therapy boxes: These give off light that mimics that light from the sun. It is significantly brighter than a typical light bulb and emits light in different wavelengths. People with SAD find that sitting in front of a light box for just 30 minutes each day suppresses the body’s natural release of melatonin.
- Dawn simulators: These are similar to light boxes but are used to wake you in place of an alarm clock. Dawn simulators produce light that increases gradually like the sun, and many use full-spectrum light that is very close to natural sunlight.
- Antidepressants: If you find that light therapy or speaking with a professional does not help improve your mood, antidepressants may be necessary to combat the winter blues. It is important to recognize the symptoms of SAD when they begin, and see your doctor before the symptoms become more severe.
- Exercise: Working out can help alleviate feelings of sadness due to the release of endorphins that comes along with it. Outdoor exercise is the best option because it allows you to absorb some natural sunlight. If it is not possible to exercise outside, try to choose a machine near the window at your gym so you can still benefit from the natural light.
Do you suffer from SAD? Share your favorite tips for brightening the day in the comments below.