Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, makes its appearance in the winter months. Shorter days and cold weather make it hard to spend time outdoors in the sunshine, leaving many with reduced energy levels and increased feelings of sadness. But SAD isn’t simply the “winter blues” –– the reduced exposure to sunlight is linked to a biochemical imbalance that affects your circadian rhythm.
If you struggle with seasonal depression, you’re not alone. While the obvious solution is to expose yourself to natural sunlight as much as possible, weather and work schedules don’t always cooperate. So here are five tips to battle SAD during these cold and often dreary months.
1. Try Light Therapy:
Light therapy is a convenient and inexpensive way to battle symptoms of SAD. Lightboxes come in a variety of sizes for a variety of needs, and in as little as 20 minutes a day, the artificial light could provide relief within one week.
2. Limit Alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant, and while it might feel like that glass of red wine is easing the symptoms of seasonal depression, the reality is it might be making things worse. If giving up alcohol is easier said than done, try inviting some friends to participate in Dry January (or a month of your choosing) for extra support and accountability.
3. Take a Vacation:
While most people prefer to plan their vacations during the summer months, taking time off during the winter season may be a better option for someone struggling with SAD. Escaping to a destination with warm temperatures and lots of sunshine can help battle symptoms associated with seasonal depression.
4. Make Time for Family and Friends.
Even though someone struggling with SAD may feel compelled to stay home, scheduling regular in-person visits with family or friends can help reduce symptoms and put you in a better mood. Odds are, someone in your circle is probably struggling too and could use similar encouragement.
5. Stimulate Serotonin and Endorphin Production:
Try a bite of dark chocolate or spend 30 minutes on an elliptical machine to boost your mood. Dark chocolate and exercise are both known for triggering a release of endorphins, providing a rush of energy and happiness. Even massages are recommended during the winter months because the release of serotonin can also boost your mood and reduce stress.
Most importantly, reach out to your physician if you feel that you need help finding solutions for treating your seasonal depression. If your depression is severe or if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, consult a doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24-hours per day if you need help.
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