Now that fall has begun, we have begun to educate our clients about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and teach them preventative techniques as well as coping mechanisms to help manage the symptoms. SAD is form of depression that occurs around the same time every year, generally during the months of September to May
What are the symptoms of SAD?
- The feelings of being sad, glum or anxious
- Being unhappy or irritable
- Loss of energy
- Slow in movements
- Increased sleep
- Isolating from others
Here is what we use for preemptive measures and coping skills for combating SAD:
#1. Light Box - Talk to your doctor about using a light box. Light therapy has been found to be effective in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder in a number of studies (American Journal of Psychiatry (2005; 162:656-662)). While you don't need a prescription to obtain a light box, it is best to discuss this therapy with your doctor and obtain guidance on what type of box to buy and how often to use it.
#2. Maintain A Routine - Creating and sticking to a regular routine will help your body develop consistency. Your internal body clock will become used to the routine and will help you in your battle against SAD.
#3. Go Outside - Often times, people with SAD need a little nature therapy. By simply going outside and taking a walk, working in the yard or the simplicity of sitting peacefully observing your surroundings can drastically elevate a person’s mood.
#4. Have A Healthy Diet - Sometimes people with SAD remedy their feelings by indulging in foods that are high in sugars. High sugary foods are incapable of giving your body the nutrients it needs to work at a high functioning rate. In addition, the feelings associated with seasonal affected disorder do not mix well with food that are considered to be junk and can leave a person feeling even worse. Concentrate on consuming foods that enhance your brain function like fish (salmon is high in omega-3 fat), berries, whole grains, nuts and leafy green vegetables.
#5. Exercise - While, it is important to exercise on a continual basis, during the fall and winter season people tend to eat more than they are active. Having an exercise regimen will help to combat the feelings of sadness because it releases endorphins into the body, which allow for a better nights rest and generally creates a good mood.
#6. Be A Social Butterfly - During the winter, most people tend to huddle up and stay indoors. However, for those with SAD this can leave them feeling alone, which can increase the symptoms of SAD. Becoming a social butterfly during the winter months is a positive way to battle the loneliness. Engaging in social activities or hosting an event cannot only serve you but you can also spread the warmth of friendship to others.
#7. Take a Trip - During the fall birds migrate to areas that are warm and they stay until the spring season. Most people are unable to migrate to warmer areas for the winter like birds, however taking a vacation during the winter is something that can be done.
#8. Pick Up A Pen - You don’t have to be a writer to write down how you feel. Journaling is a tool that is used to reveal your inner most thoughts and get them onto paper. It is hugely therapeutic activity that will help a person feel free of the thoughts that are inside their heads. Journaling allows you to set personal goals that can help inspire and give determination to a person who is suffering with SAD.
#9. Get Enough Sleep - The changing climate to colder temperatures along with the shorter days can really throw off a person’s sleep schedule. Getting the adequate amount of sleep is a necessary step for combating SAD.
#10. Stay Away From Alcohol - Alcohol is a depressant, which makes you tired. Over time alcohol can even create a deeper form of depression. Alcohol alters your way of thinking, which could negatively affect your thoughts regarding suicide. Controlling the amount of alcohol consumed or completely eliminating it from your diet will help in the fight against SAD.