Over half a million Americans live with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and seasonal depression, meaning the seasons affect their mood, productivity and ability to function as normal. These disorders typically occur during the winter months, when the days are shorter and the weather is colder. Doctors aren’t sure exactly sure what causes SAD, but attribute it to a lack of sunlight and vitamin D.
These illnesses are most common in women, people who live in cold climates with short periods of daylight and people with a family history. Living in Upstate New York, where the days are short and the winters are cold, our population is susceptible to SAD and seasonal depression.
People living with SAD typically get overwhelmed doing small tasks that are usually easy to accomplish and tend to feel tired and want to lay around all day. These symptoms can affect people’s lives to the point where they don’t want to work or do everyday activities, and may stop altogether. If you experience any of these symptoms or think that you may be suffering from seasonal depression, follow these steps to help cope this winter.
Four ways to fight seasonal depression
1. See your doctor.
If you think that you have SAD or seasonal depression, the first thing you should do is contact your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor will be the person to suggest the best treatments for your condition and symptoms. It’s important to be honest with your physician about your feelings and issues in order to get the most out of your visit.
2. Take a walk.
Bundle up in your warmest winter coat and take a walk around the block or down the street. The best time to get outside for a walk is around noon when the sun is the brightest. Not only will taking a walk refresh you and help clear your mind, it will expose you to some sunlight, even if only for a short time. This helps get the most out of the limited daylight hours.
Find a winter activity you enjoy, such as skiing, snowboarding or ice skating to get you and your endorphins going. If you don’t like winter sports, try joining a gym or health club. Even doing exercise videos from online sources such as YouTube work to help alleviate symptoms of SAD and seasonal depression.
4. Lighten up.
Brighten up your home by opening the blinds during the day and letting natural light into your home. In the evening, try turning on more lights and purchasing clear light bulbs that give the effect of a more natural light. Light boxes and dawn simulators also are also available to treat severe cases of SAD.
These are only some of the ways to reduce the effects of SAD and seasonal depression. If your wintertime blues start to take a noticeable toll on your productivity, it might be time to see your doctor. He or she can properly diagnose your symptoms and give you more remedies and treatments for these and other disorders. Don’t have a primary care physician? Find one here.