SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Health & Fitness
Do you ever find yourself feeling glum, blue, or just down for no reason on a grey day? Irritable, anxious, or extra tired during the winter months? Low energy and sluggishness starting in the fall and carrying through until spring? You could very well be one of the many people suffering from seasonal affective disorder.
The definition of seasonal affective disorder is “depression associated with late autumn and winter, and thought to be caused by a lack of light.” Seasonal affective disorder is also known as seasonal depression or winter depression and is most commonly found in areas of the world that have grey periods of time in their seasons, such as us here in beautiful British Columbia!
Some of the symptoms associated with winter seasonal affective disorder are irritability, appetite changes (cravings for carbohydrates), weight gain, tiredness, sleeplessness but also oversleeping, a heavy feeling in the limbs, and a general feeling of overall fatigue. A lot of these symptoms are of course also associated with other depressions and anxiety disorders, but if you or someone you know tends to suffer from these primarily in the late fall into winter, especially during super gloomy periods, seasonal affective disorder is likely the culprit!
It is a bit ambiguous as to why some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and others do not and it is also unclear as to what exactly triggers it, but it is safe to assume that there are several factors at play. When the days get shorter and greyer, when the sky is constantly filled with clouds or drops of rain, when all the trees become gloomy looking, the reduction in sunlight actually causes a drop in serotonin levels (serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for mood balance), which can definitely trigger feelings of depression. Melatonin is another thing in your body that can be unbalanced by a change in sunlight. Melatonin is in charge of your sleep cycles. When you fall asleep, when you wake, and when the general colour palette of life remains similar from day to night, melatonin can stop producing properly. This is also linked to your bodies biological clock or rhythm which can become confused when the seasons change.
While there are some tests (physical and mental) that can help to diagnose SAD, if you find that you relate to a lot of points made in this article, there are some things you can try yourself to see if it helps perk you up. In the winter months we tend to hermit inside, especially if we are feeling down, but getting outdoors is imperative! Despite it being hidden, the sun is still there and your body will pick up on it, as well as nature and fresh air acting as natural anti depressants all on their own. You can make your home brighter as well. Open blinds, trim bushes blocking your windows, and rearrange furniture to make your hang out spots closer to the light. Exercise is also key to cheering yourself up and can even help to regulate hormone production and release! Omega 3 fatty acids are considered by many to also help relieve depression. You can actually supplement yourself with melatonin if you find your sleep patterns are disrupted. Besides that, light therapy is also increasingly popular for helping SAD symptoms. SAD lamps or light boxes emit a specific spectrum of light meant to mimic that of the sun that the user sits in front of for a period of time each day to get their required amount of daylight. It’s found to be effective.
Depression of any kind is an incredibly heavy burden to bear, but if you or someone you know and love is suffering most heavily during the darker months of the year, remember that you are not alone. Try some of the tips and tricks outlined here and be sure to consult your health care professional. The winter blues are not meant to be debilitating!