2020 has been a year of difficulty, challenges and emotional turmoil for many. Between the global COVID-19 and isolation due to quarantine there has been an influx of millions reporting experiencing depression and anxiety symptoms. Now with season’s changing from sunny to cold and dark, many are at an even greater risk for suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
So, what is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is defined as a type of depression disorder characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern. SAD results in a change of mood and affect due to the changes of the seasons such as fall and winter seasons. SAD affects an estimated 10 million Americans every year, with women four times more likely to be diagnosed than men. SAD can negatively impact an individual’s mood, sleep patterns, interpersonal relationships. and overall day to day functioning.
How do I know if I’m suffering from SAD?
Though SAD might look like mirror other depressive disorders it’s important to know that SAD is a result of season changes and which is the key difference.
- Having low energy and Fatigue
- Having difficulties concentrating on daily tasks
- Feelings of Anxiousness or Anxiety
- Feelings of Restlessness and agitation
- Changes in sleep patterns such as oversleeping (hypersomnia)
- Weight Gain
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair
SAD symptoms just like many other mental health disorders vary from person to person.
So, what can I do to feel better?
Experiencing SAD can make one feel hopeless, overwhelmed, unmotivated, confused, and anxious. However, there are some ways to make yourself feel better and make steps towards decreasing symptoms.
Get some Vitamin D
SAD symptoms are connected to the yearly seasonal changes especially during the fall and winter months where it gets darker earlier and the temperature is colder. Thus, making exposure to sunlight less. Exposure to sunlight helps our brain release the chemical serotonin which is associated with naturally boosting our mood.
Whenever possible, find ways to expose yourself to the sun. Some ways to achieve this is during daylight hours:
- Taking a short walk outdoors
- Increase access to natural light within your home and workplace through opening blinds, sitting near windows
- Even utilizing light therapy boxes and/or lamps. Light therapy boxes mimic outdoor light and research has shown these machines have the ability to improve mood and decrease symptoms of SAD. It is imperative to consult with your health care provider on which light box is right for you.
Improve nutrition and exercise regiment
Exercise is a healthy way to boost serotonin, reduce anxiety and/or depression, and improve cognitive functioning. Though with the 3COVID-19 pandemic many gyms have closed to decrease exposure that doesn’t mean access to physical movement is depleted.
Engaging in physical activities such as walking, cycling, yoga, lifting weights or resistance bands, swimming or even dancing! Whatever type of exercise you choose, aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of day!
Diet not only plays a huge factor in our physical health but also our mental health. Incorporating small, well-balanced meals that comprise fresh fruits, veggies, and lean proteins can help increase energy and stabilize your mood.
Connect with those in your trust support circle
SAD can make you feel hopeless, depressed, but even more it can make you feel isolated. Communicating with those that you trust can be great supports to help alleviate and manage some symptoms of SAD.
Having phone calls or video chats, joining local in-person and/or virtual support group for depression, or even having dinner/lunch can make a difference.
While getting extra vitamin D, increased healthy nutrition, and exercise can be helpful, it might not be effective for everyone and that’s okay. You don’t have to suffer alone. Therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is evidenced based and proven to be highly beneficial for individuals suffering from SAD. CBT is designed specifically to help individuals reconceptualize experiences and process events in a way that helps them better understand their own perceptions and therefore their own level of control over their personal perceptions. Our Revolutionary Change Counseling therapists who have training in CBT can help you manage your SAD symptoms and help you develop healthy coping strategies to deal with the stress of SAD.
SAD can be difficult, especially with the current state of our world, but it’s important for you to know that you are not alone and don’t have to suffer in silence. Revolutionary Change Counseling clinical team is on standby to support you. Please call us at (813) 331-7673 for counseling services for individuals, couples, families and children. We are located in Apollo Beach and we service the Riverview, Brandon, Ruskin, Sun City, Seffner, Gibsonton and Bradenton Area.