Seasonal Depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the change of seasons. Seasonal depression can also mean depression that is brought on by the holiday season when people can feel alone, alienated, and depressed. Anxiety is also a component of Seasonal Affective Disorder and a co-morbidity of depression.
If you suffer from seasonal depression, experts in psychiatry advise:
- Light therapy—The lack of sunshine can play a significant role in SAD. If you have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, your doctor might suggest that you try a lightbox. A lightbox stimulates your body’s circadian rhythm and suppresses the release of melatonin. Thirty minutes a day in front of a therapy light box might significantly ease the symptoms of fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
- Prescription anti-depressants—The decision to use antidepressant medication is one that should be made between you and your doctor. Your doctor should do a full screening and may recommend alternative therapies before the use of medication. If you are prescribed antidepressants, remember that they take time to work. You should ask your doctor how long it will take your body to reach a steady-state with the medication. If the medication does not work, do not give up hope. It can often take more than one try to find the right medication combination for you.
- Psychotherapy—Talk therapy and behavioral modification shows great promise in reducing depression. Whether used alone or as an adjunct to additional treatments, psychotherapy can help you to learn coping skills to deal with your feelings.
- Aromatherapy—Aromatherapy is used to treat seasonal depression. The sense of smell is a powerful stimulant for releasing chemicals in the brain that impact our mood. Essential oils used in aromatherapy can promote relaxation, help control mood and promote healthy sleep habits.
- Exercise—Cold and gloomy weather tends to keep us indoors, reducing the amount of activity we get during the winter months. Not only is this bad for our bodies, but it can have an impact on our psychological health as well. Exercising outdoors is the best option, but on days where the weather prevents you from being outdoors, commit to using a gym or treadmill to keep your body moving. Exercise promotes health and the release of hormones in the brain that have a powerful effect on our mood.
- Natural light—Get as much exposure to natural light as possible. Bundle up and take a walk, even on cold days. Open up the blinds and curtains in your home to let in natural light.
- Take a vitamin D supplement—studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D, common in the winter months, can lead to feelings of depression. Ask your doctor about checking your vitamin D levels and if they are low, consider adding a supplement. Adding a vitamin D supplement may help with your seasonal depression and also serves to help keep your bones healthy.
- Keep a journal—Writing down your feelings can help you process how you are feeling, and has proven to be effective in helping cope with depression. Journaling has another vital benefit in that it can help you understand, over time, what measures are helping and those that are not. Take note of any changes you make to your exercise routines, supplements, daily routine, and medication. Then use your journal to track your mood and look for patterns to help you figure out what works best for you.
- Do not isolate yourself—Seasonal depression can lead to isolation because you do not feel up to keeping up a social life. Fight the urge to crawl under the covers as this will only exacerbate your depression. Pursue a hobby, make plans with friends, and plan time to do the things that you enjoy. Even if you don’t feel like it, making the effort to stay engaged with people and things you care about will have a positive impact on your mental health.
- Talk to your doctor if you do not see improvement or if you experience a serious decline in your mood. We all have ups and downs in our mood, but if you feel that you are getting better instead of worse, make sure and let your doctor know. Depression is a serious and complex illness and can impact your physical health along with your mental well being. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, please seek emergency medical attention.