Surviving winter in Seattle is something Northwesterners have learned to do year after year.
But why survive when you can thrive?
The cold, dark months ahead can really impact the way some people feel. The grays that fill the coastline along with shorter days can cause some to feel more sadness and less energy.
Maybe you find yourself wanting to sleep more and more during the day.
Perhaps you’ve lost your motivation and each day feels like a struggle.
If these feelings don’t lessen, you might be slipping into seasonal depression especially if these symptoms seem to pop up around this time every year.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that occurs when the seasons change. Those who experience SAD will experience it at the same time every year, and it can affect those who live in a particular climate – like Seattle.
It is primarily understood that SAD happens due to limited sunlight because the sun increases our serotonin production, a neurotransmitter in the brain that keeps us feeling happy. Reduced sunlight can also throw off one’s circadian rhythm, commonly referred to as your body’s biological or internal clock. When this happens, feelings of depression can arise, and sleep levels become affected. This disruption also affects your body’s melatonin levels, which further impacts sleep and mood.
Here are some more signs of seasonal affective disorder to look out for:
• Low energy or sluggishness
• Lack of interest in ordinary or favorite activities
• Trouble sleeping or focusing
• Weight or appetite fluctuations
• Irritability or agitation
• Feeling worthless or hopeless
• Suicidal thoughts or frequent thoughts about death (please be sure to seek immediate help if these thoughts are present.)
In order to manage SAD “Winter Blues” this winter, tune into the way you feel. We’re all facing unprecedented and challenging times due to COVID-19 so be kind to yourself. If you experience any of these symptoms or begin to feel unusually sad or depressed, don’t’ hesitate to reach out for support.
There are many options available to you for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here are a few common and well-known treatments if you find yourself feeling blue this winter:
Light therapy utilizes artificial light that mimics outdoor light, helping to promote more serotonin levels in the brain, and as a result, a better mood. It involves standing a few feet away from a lightbox and ensuring you get exposure within the first hour that you wake each day.
Taking care of your immune system through a nutrient-dense diet is imperative during the cold seasons. You should prioritize foods high in antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamin b12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon and chicken are excellent sources of lean proteins that provide energy and boost your mood. It is not always easy to get out of the house for fresh fruit or veggies in the winter, so foods such as oatmeal and certain fortified cereals, along with walnuts and sunflower seeds, are helpful as well. These all contain folic acid, which may also lead to an increase of serotonin in the brain.
Because seasonal affective disorder throws off your circadian rhythm, it is best to stick as closely as possible to a regular sleep schedule. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, develop a nighttime routine that includes things such as yoga or reading to help you relax. Staying on a consistent schedule with all aspects of your day, from eating to daily activities, is essential because it will help keep your mind focused. Because the change in season is out of your control, staying on a schedule will help you reduce the probability of the triggers and unpredictability that can spike anxiety levels during times of change.
While SAD is sometimes referred to as the “winter blues,” the symptoms can be severe and long-lasting, and it is a disorder that should be taken seriously. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression in any way, it’s best to reach out for support. Don’t self-diagnose yourself! Major depression is much more than just feeling sad. Depression is a complex medical condition that can be crippling for those who suffer.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a debilitating illness associated with frequent relapses, persistent symptoms, and incomplete recovery. Medication, psychotherapy, and TMS Therapy can help provide relief for symptoms of Major Depression.
Our compassionate team is here for you! We specialize in helping those with SAD with creative approaches including medication management and TMS therapy. Let’s walk together through your struggles and find a treatment that helps you feel better again.
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