SAD: Beating the Winter Blues

This time of year is heavily associated with seasonal changes. The leaves are crisping to the lovely red, yellow and orange shades to welcome the winter weather. It is during this time that we also gain that extra hour of sleep and walk out of work into darkness. And for many, this time of year marks the onset of many undesirable symptoms that include a heaviness and with it, a state of depression.

Seasonal depression of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has been estimated to impact nearly 10 million Americans, more common among individuals in the northern states (Psychology Today, 2006). “Many individuals suffering with the disorder feel hopeless, have a change in appetite, experience a drop in their energy level, report feeling ‘heavy’, experience fatigue and may find themselves avoiding social situations.” Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) “is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons…with symptoms that often start in the fall and continue into the winter months–zapping your energy and making you feel moody” (Mayo Clinic, 2014). Many of our clients at Summit’s Edge are well aware of their impending symptoms but feel ill-equipped to manage their mood in the winter months. We would like to share a few small preventative measure that can be taken as the winter threatens your mood:

1)  Stay Hydrated. During the summer, we tend to consume larger amounts of water, due to the heat. Your body still requires 8-10 cups of water per day. Avoiding large amounts of caffeine will allow help promote sleep and therefore promote the maintenance of your serotonin levels.

2)  Remain Active. Tempting as it may be, stay off the couch! Find ways to get outside. Walk. Run. Hike. Park farther from the door when you get to work. This oxygenation of the body will counter depressive symptoms by increasing serotonin levels. This could be challenging. This may be a great chance to try out Opposite Action: If we are feeling very depressed, or begin to think that no one wants us around and we might as well just stay in bed, a way to act opposite to the emotions is to get ourselves up and do something (go for a walk, go to the grocery store, visit a friend, go to therapy, etc.). We are not denying our emotion, but we are challenging it by acting opposite to it.

3)  Mindful Eating. Eat away from distraction. Don’t eat in front of the TV. You’re likely to consume up to 21% more food when you do! Sometimes just asking yourself before you eat, “Why am I hungry?” before you grab a bite can prevent mindless eating. You may also think about planning ahead. As we mentioned earlier, you’re going to be walking out of the office into the darkness, you may think twice about cooking a healthy meal! If you have not already, invest in a crock pot. Try a new healthy recipe for your crock pot by clicking here.

4)  Supplement Your Sun. During the winter months, we are seriously lacking the very vital vitamin (try saying that three times fast) D! Vitamin D is sometimes called, “the sunshine vitamin.” You can buy enough vitamin D to get you well through the winter months, here. You may also try 5-HTP which is a naturally occurring amino-acid that is a homeopathic treatment for depression. **Please talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet or exercise regimen.

4)  Therapy. If you have tried the following suggestions and still continue to experience depressive symptoms, you may consider making an appointment with a professional counselor to determine other causes. The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends a cognitive-behavioral approach for the treatment of SAD. A mental health professional may help to assist you with diagnosis of more severe disorders or other methods to manage your seasonal symptoms. To read more about SAD you can click here.

Mayo Clinic (2014). Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD. Retrieved from here.

Psychology Today (2006). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from here.