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How to Deal with Seasonal Depression

Stephanie Tuba

Posted on December 02 2019

For most people, Fall and Winter is a cherished time marked by holidays, comfy sweaters, and pumpkin spice lattes. For some, however, it means dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that coincides with shorter and colder days, that can leave you feeling hopeless and lethargic. 

SAD is caused by a variety of factors, like living in high altitudes and limited exposure to sunlight, which impacts how the body produces melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep patterns). Symptoms include irritability, prolonged sadness, and anxiety. Roughly half a million people suffer from SAD, which means that it’s likely that you or someone you know deals with it. Keep reading to find out ways to cope with it. 

Get Outside
Many triggers for seasonal depression stem around limited access to sunshine. 

For example, our sleep habits are controlled by circadian rhythm, which is an internal clock that regulates patterns of sleeping and alertness. Our bodies are conditioned to be alert when the sun is out, and rest when the sun is down. Since Winter occurs when your side of the earth is furthest away from the sun, that means we have fewer hours of sunlight each day. This decrease can affect our sleeping patterns, which will then affect our moods and productivity. 

One way to combat this natural phenomenon is to get outside. Fall and Winter days may be shorter, but they still provide us with several hours of sunlight each day (when it's not snowing). Taking advantage of every second of daylight will positively impact your mood, and hopefully, keep you away from the Winter blues. 

Just make sure to bundle up! 

Invest In Light Therapy
If you can’t brave the cold, you might consider investing in a light therapy box. It emits a bright artificial light, in stages, meant to mimic the patterns of natural sunshine. Nothing can take the place of natural sunlight, but a lightbox gets pretty close! For this reason, it’s a great alternative if you can’t manage to get outside. Or, if you still need extra exposure to sunlight. Experts suggest using it for no more than thirty minutes a day. 

Exercise
Exercise has long been observed by scientists to help alleviate depression, Physical activity releases endorphins, which has been known to improve moods and increase a person’s energy. Fortunately, exercise also helps to alleviate seasonal depression as well. Some experts recommend “low-impact, aerobic activities like walking, and dancing." 

For those people who hate working out, I have good news. You don’t even have to work out for hours and hours each week (even though 2.5 hours of physical activity a week is generally recommended for most adults), you can reap the benefits of exercise with as little as ten minutes a day. If you want a bonus boost, then you should workout with a friend. The social interaction will also contribute to an improved mood. 

Visit A Doctor
If all else fails, you might want to consider getting professional help. SAD is an officially recognized form of depression, which means it can be treated through counseling or even with a prescription for antidepressants. Doctor visits are known to be expensive though, even if you have insurance, so this might not be a viable option for everyone. But those who can take advantage of getting a professional opinion definitely should! 

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