Winter Blues: 5 Tips for Fighting Seasonal Depression
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The colder months are here, with shorter days and longer nights. If you’re feeling tired, moody, anxious, or blue, you might be suffering from SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression linked to the decreased hours of daylight that come with fall and winter. Studies estimate that 4-6 percent of the population suffers from SAD, and it affects women more often than men. If winter doldrums are getting you down, these tips can help you beat the blues.
Bright Light Sessions
Most symptoms of SAD resolve with daily light therapy. Bright light therapy devices, known as light boxes, are available without a prescription from many retailers. For best results, doctors recommend at least 30 minutes in front of the light box within 10 minutes of waking up each morning. Your symptoms could improve in as little as a week or two, although you should continue light therapy throughout the season to keep your symptoms at bay.
Sufferers of SAD would often rather curl up in bed than climb on a treadmill, but therapists agree that regular exercise can help stave off symptoms. Mix up cardio sessions with occasional yoga or Pilates classes. A brisk walk or jog in bright mid-day sun is an ideal way to combine the benefits of exercise with a natural dose of vitamin D. Of course, always make sure you properly stretch before a walk or a run or you could find yourself at an urgent care with a sprain or strain.
Don’t Abandon Routines
It’s tempting to snuggle up and sleep in instead of getting up when it’s dark outside, but keeping your regular routine helps regulate your mood. Stick to your normal bedtime and sleep schedule, and try to eat at your usual intervals. If you have a fitness routine, don’t give in to giving up. Find an exercise buddy to keep you motivated.
Depression can be a vicious circle as you isolate yourself because you feel so lousy. However, isolation makes your depression worse. It’s important to get out and interact with people. Take an art class, or join a book club. Spend an evening out with a group of co-workers, or invite a close friend over for pizza and a movie. Staying social can even help prevent SAD in some people.
There’s a body of evidence suggesting vitamin D can help ease SAD symptoms. Vitamin D is naturally synthesized from the sun, and when sunlight disappears, vitamin D levels go down. Other people find supplements like SAMe, Saint John’s wort, melatonin and fish oil helpful at preventing the blues. It’s worth experimenting with these therapies if you’re susceptible to SAD. First, consult your doctor if you have chronic medical conditions.
Of course, one sure-fire way to beat the winter blues is to schedule a winter vacation in a sunny location. A few days at the beach or desert golf course can go a long way toward preventing SAD. One word of caution, though is that most people have mild symptoms of seasonal depression. If you’re struggling with sleepiness and sadness, play it safe and see a doctor at an urgent care location right away. There are medications that can supplement lifestyle changes to keep you feeling your best.
Kevin Leftwich is a freelance journalist from Los Angeles who writes for a variety of health and wellness blogs and periodicals.