Have you noticed yourself feeling unusually gloomy, sad, unmotivated, blue, foggy, glum, tired, moody, or downright depressed during the last few months? Before you blame yourself, your family, your friends, or your job for your less-than-positive mood, take a moment to consider the impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately abbreviated S.A.D.) is the term for a minor depression that many people experience during the winter months. Cold temperatures, lack of natural sunlight, and generally unpleasant weather can sometimes bring even the most positive person down. It is a relatively common phenomenon in the United States. According to American Family Physician, 4-6% of people experience depression in the winter, and another 10-20% experience a mild form of S.A.D.
Overcoming Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you think you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, talk to your doctor or trusted psychotherapist. These qualified individuals can help you make an official diagnosis and can recommend treatment options from there. Common treatment strategies include psychotherapy, medications, and/or phototherapy (light therapy).
In addition to these official treatments, there are certain things you can do at home to combat seasonal affective disorder and improve your mood. Here are a few of my favorite strategies.
Exercise releases endorphins, a natural chemical found in the body. Endorphins are responsible for lowering pain levels and increasing feelings of happiness – in some cases, they can even produce euphoria. Exercising regularly can be a great way to naturally release more endorphins so you can begin enjoying their benefits. Start small; even 15-20 minutes per day will make an impact.
Originally, many people assumed that mediation was only for yogis and other supremely spiritual people. However, mediation offers numerous benefits that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. Simply taking a few minutes every day to calm your mind and hone your focus can make a big difference. If it’s hard for you to “clear your mind,” start by lighting a candle and simply focusing on the flame for five minutes. You’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
As more and more people become aware of their natural health benefits, essential oils are becoming increasingly popular. Some people suggest that diffusing certain essential oils or adding a few drops of them to your bathwater in the evening can be a great way to combat SAD and depression. According to Dr. Axe, bergamot oil, lavender oil, chamomile oil, and ylang ylang oil are especially helpful for combating depression.
Lack of sunshine is one of the primary causes of seasonal affective disorder. Low vitamin D levels are often linked to depression, and sunshine is one of the primary sources of this important vitamin. While they aren’t typically the norm, sunny days do occur during winter. If the sun is shining, I encourage you to make a point to get outside, even if only for a few minutes. It will help! (You may also want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.)
Keeping a journal can be an excellent way to channel negative emotions. Some studies have shown that writing something down frees your brain from the need to remember it, which makes it easier for you to move on and focus on happier thoughts. Try not to only use your journal to record negativity, though – use it as an opportunity to write down things you are grateful for as well. Reading back over the positive things in your life will help you learn to focus on them.
Last but certainly not least, counseling can be a powerful way to counteract the effects of seasonal affective disorder. SAD and other forms of depression often feel extremely isolating, but being able to talk to an experienced therapist can help you overcome this feeling of isolation. Your therapist can further assist by helping you develop customized strategies for beating SAD that will work best for your specific situation. By working with an online therapist, you can get the help you need without ever having to leave your home.
Contact Me To Schedule Your Online Psychotherapy Session!
If you are interested in pursuing therapy to help you overcome seasonal affective disorder, I would be honored to speak with you. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can feel overwhelming at times, but I assure you it is possible to overcome them. All it takes is determination and strength – and possibly a little help from an experienced online mental health therapist. Never give up!!
Visit my website at www.NeverGiveUp.care to get started. If you are outside of the state of Michigan, contact me via Better Help. I truly look forward to helping you!
Samantha M. Ruth, Transformational Psychologist