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Many people around the world struggle with seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder. If you are one of them, the winter months are probably tough for you. However, there are some ways you can ease and manage your seasonal depression. By changing your habits and putting the extra work in, you may not completely cure your SAD, but you can definitely learn to minimize it and live with it! In the rest of this article, we will share some of our favorite tips for managing seasonal depression.
What is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as seasonal depression or SAD, is a form of depression triggered by changes in daylight and weather that mainly occur in winter.
What causes SAD? Some experts believe that seasonal variations interrupt the body's inner clock that controls how we function throughout the day, causing us to feel invigorated and alert at times and tired at others. Another hypothesis is that the changing seasons affect chemicals that regulate sleep, mood, and emotions of well-being, such as serotonin and melatonin. Whatever the cause, there are some ways you can consider managing seasonal depression.
Become Physically Active
As it does for other types of depression, exercise can help alleviate SAD because it helps boost your mental health. Moreover, exercise can also help with weight gain, which is a common side effect of seasonal depression. Outdoor activity is one of the most effective treatments for SAD symptoms. However, if it's too cold or snowy to exercise outside, try using a treadmill, stationary cycle, or elliptical machine near a window at home or the gym. If you don't have home exercise equipment, yoga is a great alternative too. You can find tons of great yoga videos and instructions online that can help guide you through your exercises.
Prioritize Social Activities
You may not think social activities play such an important role in managing your seasonal depression, but they do. Studies have discovered a link between social isolation and depression. And, as we know, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been isolated than ever before. That's why it's critical to come up with new strategies to keep connected with others during these times. Begin by spending time with family and friends in a nearby park, participating in outdoor sports, or taking walks when the weather permits.
If the wintertime darkness, weather, and COVID-19 have you staying indoors more than you'd like, there are alternative methods to socialize besides the in-person contact. FaceTime or set up Zoom calls with friends and extended family members when the winter weather makes it too chilly to be outside or too dangerous to drive. Staying in touch with the people you care about will help ease your seasonal depression.
If you have recently moved in with a roommate you get along with, consider spending more quality time with them. However, living with a friend is not always easy; it certainly has its challenges. You may bicker a lot about house chores, but don't let these silly arguments lead to isolation. Do your best to compromise and work through your problems together. Falling out with a person you care about can only hurt your feelings and worsen your seasonal depression.
Stick To A Schedule
People who suffer from seasonal depression frequently have difficulty sleeping at night and waking up in the morning. Having a regular sleeping schedule and sticking to it can improve your sleep, which might help with seasonal depression symptoms. This means you should also avoid napping during the day, which can only worsen your symptoms. Maintaining a regular routine allows you to be exposed to light at consistent and predictable intervals. Furthermore, eating at regular intervals can help you avoid overeating, which is also a common symptom.
Bright Light Therapy
Another way you can manage your seasonal depression is by using a "lightbox" for light therapy. This method is also known as phototherapy, and it's most useful on days when you don't get enough sunlight. These lightbox devices give off light that mimics sunshine, which helps a lot to those living with SAD. Typically, after getting a lightbox, you'll have to sit in front of it for about a half an hour a day. It's best you do this within the first hour after waking up in the morning. This should result in a chemical change in your brain that will improve your mood and mitigate the symptoms of seasonal depression.
Similarly, many people with SAD tend to purchase dawn simulators. These gadgets are alarm clocks, but instead of blaring or playing loud music to wake you up, they emit light that gradually grows in intensity, much like the sun.
Keep A Journal
According to experts, keeping a daily journal or a daily planner is excellent for those struggling with seasonal depression because it helps them prioritize life's challenges and identify their depression triggers. When you journal, you release all your thoughts, feelings, and concerns on the page. So, set aside at least half an hour every day to write your journal. Write or draw whatever feels right; don't feel like it needs to look good - it's for your eyes only. It's best to do this at night so you can think clearly about everything that has transpired in the previous 24 hours. Moreover, after you have written everything down and got it out of your system - you should feel relieved and ready to sleep.
Consult Your Doctor
While changing your daily habits can certainly help maintain a healthy lifestyle and good mental health, sometimes that's not enough to combat seasonal depression. Sometimes, it's best to talk to an expert: your doctor.
Because it is a type of depression, seasonal affective disorder must be diagnosed by a mental health expert. Seeing a specialist if you have SAD can help you work through it. Moreover, they might prescribe you antidepressants if they think it would help you manage your seasonal depression. So, before going to your doctor, prepare for the fact that you might need to use the medication from autumn until spring.