Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the increase in feelings of depression that are associated with the decreasing light exposure of the fall and winter months. SAD is a common seasonal issue that extends beyond light exposure. Colder months make it less likely to be outside losing light exposure, decrease overall outdoor activities and opportunities to move, and decrease the opportunities for outdoor social activities. This year will likely be especially difficult for SAD due to restrictions from Covid 19, social unrest, and continued anxieties about our culture’s overall stability. In light of SAD coming and the likelihood of its increased intensity; here are three ways to help get ahead before it sets in.
Right now is a great time to take a snapshot of where your overall emotional health is as we come into the winter. Everyone has been dealing with some kind of chronic stress due to the changes made by Covid 19 and many people continue to struggle with their emotional health. Addressing your mental or emotional health can be critical to buffering against increased symptoms of SAD as we head into the winter. I like to encourage people to think of their emotional health as a system. If there is dysfunction within a system it will usually function normally when there is a lower amount of stress. However adding stress to a dysfunctional system will create more dysfunction. It’s good to understand what we function like under normal circumstances and then to understand what breaks down within us under stress. Coming into individual therapy is a great start to address our overall emotional health and how we would like to make improvements to become more resilient.
Maintaining some sort of light exposure during winter months is a critical boost to our health and mood. Decreased light exposure is one of the main factors that contribute to developing SAD. This is contingent on the client of the person and their ability to to go outside can vary greatly in the U.S. If it is impossible to go outside or if there are consistent clouds then getting a light to supplement natural sunlight is associated with increased management of SAD symptoms.
Health and Supplementation
One of the main contributing factors to SAD is decreased Vitamin D due to the decreased exposure to sunlight. At Integrated Health Systems we are encouraging every patient to address their vitamin supplementation coming into the winter months. Another consideration is the implementation of or increasing the intensity of basic exercise. Exercise is typically associated with a decrease in symptoms of depression that are on par with antidepressants. I also work directly with patients to implement a consistent routine of mindfulness breathwork that is associated with decreased depressive symptoms and overall improvement in health.
Addressing our physical and emotional health can be overwhelming especially during stressful times like these. Please reach out for a free consultation at Integrated Health Systems if you would like increased support.