How to combat seasonal affective disorder and shake off winter blues
Seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as seasonal depression, winter depression, or ‘winter blues’, affects many people each year. It is thought that the body reacts to decreased light and cold temperatures associated with winter, usually manifesting as mild to moderate depressive episodes.
However, just because there aren’t severe consequences to seasonal depression doesn’t mean that it isn’t an issue! We have some tips that will help you prevent and manage seasonal depression:
1. Try at-home light therapy
Light therapy ensures that the body is exposed to sunlight, albeit artificial, so that the circadian rhythm is maintained. By helping to control the body’s release of melatonin, a healthier sleep-wake schedule is maintained and curbs certain symptoms of seasonal depression such as lethargy and sleep changes.
Some examples of light therapy include light boxes and dawn simulators. Light boxes emit light that mimics sunshine, and can be adjusted to different wavelengths to find the one that works best for you. Dawn simulators work similarly to alarm clocks, where instead of an alarm sound or tone, the device emits light that gradually becomes brighter to mimic dawn breaking.
2. Take vitamin D
Research shows that low levels of vitamin D in the body are associated with depression. In addition, living at northern latitudes and a lack of sun exposure may contribute to seasonal depression. Vitamin D supplementation at 100,000IU per day has been found to be effective, but adverse effects may arise when taking more than 50,000IU per day and more studies need to be done to confirm this finding.
3. Stick to a schedule and try to incorporate exercise into it
A healthy schedule helps to introduce order and stability to a lifestyle that may seem hectic or overwhelming. Keeping yourself busy with things that you enjoy might help to take your mind off the winter blues and help you to sleep better in the evening. Exercise, especially if done outside when the weather is nice, can also help you gain exposure to sunlight along its numerous other health benefits.
Take a look at our blog posts on sleep tips and the importance of healthy routines for your wellbeing for more information.
4. Speak to a healthcare professional and speak to them about taking medications such as antidepressants
Make sure to speak to a healthcare professional if seasonal depression is affecting your day-to-day life. They may recommend that you try counselling or trial an antidepressant after confirming a diagnosis of seasonal depression. Seasonal depression is a common ailment but can be challenging to overcome. It’s important to recognize the signs and treat it, whether it be through lifestyle modifications or starting drug therapy
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