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Tips for Battling Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Posted on December 21, 2015 by Delaware Valley University.

We’ve all experienced it before – the winter months roll around and put us in a funk. Our mood drops and we’d rather just lounge inside with a movie or two (or three or four!) instead of getting out and enjoying ourselves. This isn’t anything to be alarmed by – it’s the winter blues. If you find yourself feeling down this winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder may be nagging at you. But don’t let it keep you down, there are plenty of ways to improve your mood and keep you motivated. 

Learn more about this disorder and what you can do to get past it. 

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. Most people with SAD begin experiencing symptoms in the fall that continue into the winter months.

While the exact cause of SAD is unknown, there are some factors that are thought to come into play.

·         Your internal clock: In the fall and winter, there is a reduced level of sunlight which can cause the winter onset of SAD. The decrease in sunlight can disrupt your circadian rhythm and lead to feelings of depression.

·         Serotonin levels: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter brain chemical that affects your mood. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin and could play a role in SAD.

·         Melatonin levels: The change of seasons can also disrupt the balanced melatonin in your body which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. 

What are the symptoms?

SAD can make you feel like you don’t have any energy or very moody. Additional symptoms of fall and winter SAD can include:

·         Irritability

·         Tiredness

·         Hypersensitivity

·         Heavy feeling in the arms and legs

·         Oversleeping

·         Appetite change, craving for high-carbohydrate foods

·         Weight gain

Many people experience these symptoms during the winter months, but you may also experience symptoms of major depression. If you’re dealing with any of the following symptoms, see your doctor immediately and find relief as soon as possible.

·         Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day

·         Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

·         Having problems with sleeping

·         Feeling sluggish or agitated

·         Having difficulty concentrating

·         Feeling hopeless or worthless

 What can I do to treat it?

·         Exercise: Exercise can alleviate many forms of depression, including SAD. Working out can release endorphins in your body that interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. They also trigger a positive feeling in the body. Exercising outside will produce the best results for increasing mood, so get moving outdoors when the sun is shining and the temperatures aren’t too cold.

·         Let in light: When you’re at home, don’t keep the shades drawn. Let as much natural light in as you can to boost your mood. You may also want to invest in a dawn simulator that produces light that gradually increases in intensity like the sun.

·         Stick to a schedule: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule will improve sleep and alleviate seasonal depression. Stay on a regular schedule for waking up and going to sleep.

Don’t stay indoors and let your SAD get to you. Click here to check out DelVal’s blog for information about winter activities and events.