Most people find that their moods are a lot cheerier when the weather is warmer and there is more sunshine. They also tend to feel much less energized during the winter. For most people, it doesn’t go much further than that. However, for some, winter can lead to SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is SAD?
SAD is a condition that is a form of depression that tends to change during the different seasons and tends to be much worse during the winter months. The exact cause or causes of SAD are still unknown, but there are some factors that seem to cause people to suffer from it during different times of the year, especially winter. Here are a few things that might contribute to SAD:
- Lack of vitamin D because there is less exposure to sunlight during winter.
- Over production of melatonin. The production of melatonin is increased with more darkness. This means that people with SAD tend to be more likely to feel more sluggish during winter months.
- There tends to be trouble with regulating serotonin during the winter months and this is what helps to regulate our moods.
Seasonal Affective Disorder will typically affect some more than others. A person will more likely experience this disorder if they:
- Happen to be female. Women tend to be four times more likely to be affected by SAD than men.
- Already suffer from depression, alcoholism, eating disorders, or bipolar disorder.
- Living far from the equator.
- History of depression in the family.
- Teens and young adults tend to suffer from SAD more than adults who are older.
Symptoms of SAD
It’s important to realize that symptoms of SAD really aren’t separate from other symptoms of depression and that SAD is a kind of depression that is influenced by different seasonal patterns especially during the winter months. Here are some of the symptoms seen in winter influenced SAD:
- Lack of energy
- Sleeping too much
- Eating too much
- Craving for carbohydrates
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Feeling sad or apathetic
- Crying for no reason
- Body aches
- Loss of interest in things they love to do
- Hard time concentrating
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling guilty
- Suicidal behavior or thoughts
Treatment for Winter SAD
Most treatments for SAD are similar to the treatment for any depression. One thing that might be different is that many are treated with light therapy. Using light therapy is suppose to help reset the biological clock.
Here is a list of other types of treatment for SAD:
- Individual or group therapy
- Medication such as antidepressants
- CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is therapy that can help to reduce the symptoms and teach people coping skills along with the light therapy
- Take vitamin D
Changes in the seasons can be very difficult for people who may already suffer from depression. However, there are different ways they can cope with winter SAD and the blues. These things can help to boost mental health.
Tips for Better Mental Wellness During the Winter Months
Staying Active – Winter makes it tempting to just stay on the sofa instead of going out into the cold of winter. That’s alright, even if you’re not a big fan of winter activities, there are plenty of things you can do indoors to keep you fit and easy to put into your daily routine.
First thing try to commit to exercising three or four different times each week. You should try to exercise for at least 30 minutes at a time. With regular exercising it can help to reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Pick an exercise that you actually like doing and make it a top priority and stick to doing it. If you like to swim, join a gym and go swimming several days a week. Join an exercise class with a friend, or make up your own routine in the privacy of your home. One way to make the exercise more enjoyable is to exercise with music you really love listening to.
Eat Healthier – It’s always important to eat healthy but especially during the winter if you are suffering from SAD. Often it can be hard to keep on a healthy diet because of the holidays, but it’s not impossible.
Even though fresh veggies and fruits may not be as easily available during the winter, there are some good winter food that is worth include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Potatoes and squash
Try including these types of foods and other fruits and veggies that are high in vitamins to all your favorite recipes and you’ll be amazed at how your mood can change in a more positive note.
It’s also important to make sure to stay well hydrated even during the winter months. Make sure to drink plenty of different fluids in order to flush out bacteria and to help the body function the best that it can. It’s important to try and drink a maximum of eight glasses of water a day. This would be eight ounce glasses.
Be Social – It’s important to try to avoid the desire to always want to be alone, especially during the winter months. Try to spend a little time with other people because being with other people helps to boost your mental health and will decrease depression. Another thing one can do is go out and do some volunteer work out in the community. Helping other people helps to release stress reducing chemicals from the brain and into your body.
Take Supplements – Sometimes it can help to take supplements during the winter. These supplements can help you stay mentally and physically healthy during the cold months of winter. These supplements can be omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and vitamin C. A good multivitamin can’t hurt either, they are a great way to boost your immune system.
Get Plenty of Sleep – It actually is easier to sleep when the weather is colder but you need to get good sleep. This means try to avoid drinking a lot of caffeine or alcohol just before going to bed. Both of these things can have a negative effect on the kind of sleep you get. If you get a poor nights sleep it is only going to make the symptoms of depression and anxiety worse.
Do Things That Make You Happy – Even if you are trapped indoors due to the weather, there are a lot of different activities you can do indoors that can boost your mood. Consider drawing, painting, making jewelry or explore hobbies you’ve never considered doing before. By being creative you’ll make yourself feel much better mentally.