One of the hardest things to deal with during the holiday season is feelings of sadness and irritability for no apparent reason. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, affects millions of people every year, so you’re not alone in this battle.
Seasonal depression can be triggered by many different factors, so it’s important to understand what you’re dealing with before giving up on yourself.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Although symptoms of seasonal depression most commonly occur during the winter, they can present at any time throughout the year. SAD has been linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by a lack of sunlight during the winter.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of SAD:
- Feelings of sadness
- Diminished libido or sex drive
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Fatigue throughout the day even with adequate rest at night
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Loss of energy and motivation to carry out daily activities
As you can see, these symptoms are very similar to other forms of depression.
How to Fight Seasonal Depression
If you’re tired of feeling unmotivated and sad during the winter, here are a few tips to help you combat seasonal depression and enjoy the holiday season with your friends and family!
Take a Vitamin D Supplement
Over 1 billion people worldwide have low vitamin D levels. It’s even more important to make sure you have enough vitamin D if you are a person of color. The more melanin you have, the harder it is for your body to synthesize vitamin D.
Since it’s hard to spend even 15 minutes outside during the chilly winter days, it’s important to take a vitamin D supplement. Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation over three months significantly improved overall well-being.
Take Care of Yourself
It can be difficult to remember to eat healthy meals and get enough sleep when you have a depressed mood, but you have to make your health is a priority during the winter.
Getting enough rest at night is one of the most important things you can do when dealing with seasonal depression. Studies show that a lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing mood disorders.
You don’t have to skip out on grandma’s delicious sweet potato pie, but you should do your best to avoid eating too many processed, sugary snacks. Diets high in processed foods and refined sugars have been shown to promote inflammation in the body. This can lead to, or worsen, depressive symptoms.
Get a Happy Light
The body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, is regulated by sunlight. When your eyes are exposed to bright light during certain hours of the day, it tells your brain that it’s time to be awake. This is why it can be hard to fall asleep if you’re used to staying up on your smartphone or watching TV.
Happy lights, or light therapy lamps, can be used in the comfort of your home to improve mood and energy levels. While they mimic natural sunlight, they do not produce vitamin D. If you have low vitamin D levels, you should still supplement while using a happy light.
Talk to a Professional
Although you may feel like you have SAD, you should still consult a medical professional to be sure before taking matters into your own hands. For example, if you are dealing with bipolar disorder or major depression, there will most likely be better forms of treatment for you.
Even if you’re sure you have seasonal depression, you should still be careful. The recommended safe upper limit for vitamin D3 is between 4,000 and 10,000 IU per day. If you aren’t sure how much you need, get your blood levels checked to be sure.
Don’t forget the power of some old-fashioned psychotherapy! Researchers found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and light therapy were equally effective when treating SAD symptoms. However, long-term therapy has been shown to produce more positive outcomes over time.
Whether you start taking vitamin D supplements or going to therapy, you don’t have to spend the winter feeling depressed. There are many ways to feel like yourself again.