Hello everybody!! So when I introduced myself, I mentioned that I suffer from Depression. In the winter, my depression is always considerably worse than it is in any other season. The reason? LACK OF SUNLIGHT. We're all like plants. We need lots of water and sunshine. As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in front of my window drinking in the sunlight. The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter can cause SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body's internal clock and lead to feelings of depression. Lack of sunlight can also cause a drop in your serotonin levels which affects your mood, and it can also cause your melatonin levels to rise which is why you may feel sleepy and lethargic. Darkness increases production of melatonin, which regulates sleep.
SAD doesn't only affect depression, it also does affect Anxiety. So if you find your anxiety worse in the fall/winter, this can also be why!! I find that my anxiety does get a bit worse in the winter season, but my depression definitely hits me harder than the anxiety.
Fear not! There are ways to deal with your SAD symptoms!
You can go to the doctor and talk about your options with medication. I take Effexor XR and Klonopin. I know a lot of people aren't into taking meds. For me, medication has been a life changer. I would say it has saved my life. But if you would rather take a more holistic approach, there are still ways to help your SAD symptoms!
2. Light Therapy
You can buy SAD light therapy boxes and lamps online and in stores. The light from these lamps mimic outdoor light. In light therapy, also called phototherapy, you sit a few feet from a special light box (I own a lamp) so that you're exposed to bright light within the first hour of waking up each day. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. There's an amazing episode from the show Broad City that gives you a look (albeit an exaggerated look) at light therapy and SAD. For me, the episode was super relatable and hilarious.
3. Vitamin D
Taking Vitamin D may not be a super effective treatment for everyone. It is effective for me because my levels of Vitamin D are low. According to NIMH, "The reason behind its use is that low blood levels of vitamin D were found in people with SAD. The low levels are usually due to insufficient dietary intake or insufficient exposure to sunshine. However, the evidence for its use has been mixed. While some studies suggest vitamin D supplementation may be as effective as light therapy, others found vitamin D had no effect." I personally recommend getting your blood levels checked to see what vitamins your body is lacking. It will only help you in the long run.
4. Therapy/ Psychotherapy
It's always great to talk it out. Especially when you're talking to someone who won't judge you and will actually understand the craziness you feel. I always find it refreshing to speak to someone new... someone who isn't a friend or in my family. I love when professionals can give me a scientific reason WHY something is happening to me. It helps me feel less afraid and it also gives me hope. People do feel ashamed in having to see a therapist, so if therapy is not for you, I find writing in a journal helps. Write out all your thoughts even if they sound ridiculous. Sometimes you just need to get those thoughts out and seeing it written down helps it make sense. But if you want to get to the root of your issues, seeing a professional is the way to go.
5. Mind-Body Connection
Get in touch with your body. Music, art, meditation, and yoga are also ways to check in with yourself and change your energies. Writing in your journal would also be a great way to reflect on things!
6. Environment Changes
Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open your blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight, buy some sun catchers. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or at work. Get outside. Even an hour of outdoor light can make a difference in your mood.
7. Exercise regularly
Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. I have been a fan of "yogalates", yoga, and I've been taking ballet lessons with my sister. A gym membership is not something I can afford at the moment, so I like to take online classes. My favorite pilates and yoga instructor is Jessica Valant. She has free videos on her Youtube, but she has more to offer on her website which you can have access to if you join her Unlimited membership for a reasonable price. She also has a Facebook group where you can talk with other members about your progress. I had to stop because of some ovarian cyst trouble, but her workouts made me feel GREAT! She even has workouts for people with specific health issues and people who just had surgery.
Many people have never even heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Last year at work, we had a woman come in to talk about mental health. She brought up SAD, and I volunteered to share my experience with everyone. Afterwards, a couple of coworkers came up to me saying they felt the exact same way but never knew what it was!! To this day, those coworkers and I check up on each other during the winter and help out if anyone is struggling.
I hope that this blog post can help spread awareness of SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is not a simple case of the "winter blues". This is something that affects your health, so don't think you're being overly sensitive. Always take care of yourself.
I don't know if there are any nerdy geeks out there like me, but I wanted to end this post with a quote from Doctor Who: