What is seasonal depression? How can seasonal affective disorder wreak havoc in your life? How can you navigate seasonal depression?

Do you get depressed around the same time each year? Every year are you feeling the winter blues? Is it springtime that drains your energy and gets your moods all over the place? Learn about SAD and tips to prevent it. Look for part 2 of this blog next week.

This blog series was inspired because I know people who have SAD. I have only felt I had SAD once when I was living in Vermont.  We had snow on Halloween and Easter and two weeks straight below zero and a lot of darkness. Couldn’t enjoy being outside.  It was probably not quite SAD, but I was in a bit of a funk.

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I found the majority of this information on the MAYO clinic website. I am a fan because my father had a freak accident that caused him to lose his hips and the Mayo clinic was his third try at someone finding out what was wrong. They also saved my mother’s life in 2020, so I trust their information.

Seasonal depression may appear in late fall or early winter and lessen in spring and summer. Some people may have symptoms that begin in spring or summer.  The symptoms progress as the season continues.

Symptoms for winter-onset SAD, (winter depression), may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
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Spring & Summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer depression may include:

  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Agitation or anxiety

The specific cause of the seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Circadian rhythm. The reduced level of sunlight may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s biological clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin which may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
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Some possible solutions

Some people find it helpful to begin treatment before symptoms would normally start in the fall or winter, and then continue treatment past the time symptoms would normally go away. Other people need continuous treatment to prevent symptoms from returning.

I know for me, I have to preload before fall and spring allergies, otherwise, I’m in trouble!

Have you had seasonal affective disorder?  Have you experienced more symptoms in winter or in fall?  What can you do to help alleviate what you’re feeling? What could you do to feel better?

Light therapy

Light therapy mimics natural outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. Before you purchase a light therapy box, talk with your doctor about the best one for you, so that you buy a high-quality product that’s safe and effective.

If you’re using a lightbox for the treatment of SAD, Dr. Weil recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Position the box at an angle so that the light indirectly reaches your eyes.
  • Don’t look directly at the light box as you can damage your eyes.
  • Pay attention as certain medications and supplements can make your retinas more sensitive to light and increase the risk of eye damage. These include the drug lithium and the supplements melatonin and St. John’s wort.
  • You can screen out blue light by wearing special eyeglass lenses or clip-ons during your daily treatment. There are also light boxes that filter out potentially irritating blue light.
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dawn simulator

Dawn simulators can also be effective for finding relief from SAD. Instead of waking you up abruptly, they produce light that gradually increases in intensity as if the sun is coming up.

Medications

Some people with SAD benefit from antidepressant treatment, especially if symptoms are severe.

Staying Healthy

Make your environment brighter. Open blinds and sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.

Get outside. Take a walk or sit on your porch and get some sun. Even on cloudy days, outdoor light can help.

Exercise regularly. Exercise and physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms.

Eat a healthy diet While people with SAD crave comfort foods — starchy carbs, sweet treats, and more — eating lean protein, leafy greens, and fish will keep hormones in check and boost serotonin levels. Also, reduce, or cut out, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.

Which one of these solutions would you like to try? What’s easiest for you to begin with?  Who can help you with some of these solutions?

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Purchase Julie’s books on how to clear clutter from your life: https://reawakenyourbrilliance.com/shop/

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