Don’t be SAD – Fight off Seasonal Affective Disorder
Does the winter season hit you hard? Find yourself unmotivated, depressed, anxious, or moody during those long winter months? You may be SAD – suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Now, first things first. This post is not meant to be a diagnosis, used to treat or provide anything more than general information. I am not a physician; just someone who suffers from this disorder, that only recently did I even know existed.
As I have gotten a little older, and by the natural process of things, gotten a little slower, I found myself struggling with moods and feelings of depression when the weather changed from autumn to winter.
At first, I was unaware that anything was really different about myself. It was my spouse that first noticed that when the weather gets cold enough that outdoor activities are not really optional, my mood swings significantly. Enter Seasonal Affective Disorder
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Simply stated, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mild depression that begins or is triggered by changes in season. Typically, most people will experience this during winter months when they are more confined to the indoors. Not always the case – If winter is your thing, then you might feel depressed in the spring or summer.
I know right – No one ever says “I hate summer and wish it was winter”. But, there might be a few of you out there that feel that way. To each his/her own.
The symptoms are pretty common and once you think about them, you’ll probably find that you have or have suffered them in the past.
- Feeling depressed – now, this may be harder to spot if you already suffer some depression. However, a “sudden” change is the key.
- Tired and/or lack of energy
- Change in sleep – Insomnia
- Change in diet
- Anger or agitation
- Lack of interest in activities
These may seem like any type of mild depression, but the key is that they change or are triggered when the seasons change.
If you are an active, happy person when the weather is mild but quickly get depressed or suffer some of the symptoms above, you are likely experiencing Seasonal Depression.
What to do about it
Now, this blog post is really oversimplifying the disorder and is meant to be just an awareness of the condition. A lot more goes into the diagnosis, symptomology, and treatment.
I’m going to offer some suggestions for fighting off “mild” cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder. One might also call mild cases of SAD as “Cabin Fever”.
More serious cases might require consultation by a Physician, but I’ll get into that in a minute.
Take a vacation – one of the best ways to fight off seasonal depression is having something to look forward to. Plan it and get away.
If a longer vacation is not an option for whatever reason, try my solution to longer vacations, take a Microcation – Read about that HERE. Take a long weekend and get away. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel.
My wife and I use this method the most to fight off seasonal depression. Taking shorter, more frequent getaways really helps us enjoy the winter season.
Exercise regularly – you may be tempted to call me crazy on this one, but getting regular exercise will fight off most mild depression. I know because I have suffered from regular bouts of depression and I use exercise year-round to fight off regular symptoms of depression.
Exercise can be anything from a light to vigorous exercise. If the weather is bad, most fitness centers have seasonal memberships where you can use walking tracks, treadmills, weight machines, etc for shorter periods. Just do something to get yourself active.
Get some sunlight or Vitamin D – for most people, being outdoors is very therapeutic. Turns out, we obtain a lot higher doses of Vitamin D during those periods when we are more exposed to the sun. Read about that HERE
If the weather is so bad that being outdoors is not an option, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement – Talk to your Doctor first though; especially if you are on other medications.
Spend time with family – The very people who are likely to notice a change in you or your moods are most likely the people who can help you get out of the funk you are in.
Go to a movie, concert, play a board game, plan a family meal where everyone participates. Anything that gets those feelings of belonging and happiness re-energized in you.
Lay off the booze – The worse thing you can do when you are struggling with any kind of depression is drinking alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant – Hello. If you do drink, drink in moderation and make sure to drink extra water to fight off any hangovers. Limit drinking to once per week or less during months when you notice you feel more depressed.
Now, if you are going to be doing something that involves getting those feel-good endorphins flowing, like socializing with family, friends, or a special someone, then a few drinks might be good for fighting off workweek stress. However, just be aware that a few too many will likely leave you feeling worse the next day.
When to see the Doctor
If you just can’t get past the depression using any of these suggestions, or some of your own, it may be time to see your physician.
If you already suffer from depression and are taking medication, you might want to speak to your physician sooner rather than later.
Thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harming others, ongoing symptoms despite attempts to improve your mood, or feeling too overwhelmed to make improvements yourself, then you should see your physician.
So – Don’t Be SAD
Don’t let a chance in the season bring you down.
Since I suffer from SAD, I know all too well how a change in the season can leave you feeling tired, disinterested, and just plain depressed. Get out there and keep living. Enjoy the beauty in all seasons, even if you dislike the current one.
Feel free to leave us a comment if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and have found some other solutions.
Below are a couple great links I used as references for this post.
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