Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a form of depression related to the changes in seasons. Most often, it begins in the early fall months and continues throughout the winter. According to Psychology Today, approximately 10 million Americans suffer from some degree of the disorder.
While SAD can cause mild symptoms, it’s still considered a form of depression that can be treated with the help of your health care provider. Symptoms of SAD can include:
- Mood swings;
- Persistent fatigue;
- Lack of concentration; and,
- Weight gain.
For most, the seasonal depression will resolve itself as the spring months approach, with longer daylight hours, more sunshine and milder temperatures. However, there are steps one can take with the assistance of his or her physician to help alleviate the symptoms.
Exercise is important for everyone, regardless of the time of year. However, just 20 minutes of exercise, five days a week can help combat the symptoms of seasonal depression. It’s even better if you can get outside in midday, as exposure to natural light will also ease symptoms, according to Everyday Health.
Talking with a therapist regarding your feelings of loneliness, sadness and depression can help to create a plan that will help you manage the winter blues. Your therapist may also suggest an anti-depressant to further ease your depression symptoms.
Light boxes have gained popularity in helping those who suffer from seasonal depression. Also known as bright light therapy boxes and phototherapy boxes, these devices expose the user to light designed to mimic sunlight, increasing the production of the mood-elevating hormone serotonin. While many have had great success with light therapy, you should discuss this option with your doctor if you also suffer from bipolar depression, the Mayo Clinic explained, because overexposure can bring on manic symptoms.
While the feelings of depression and helplessness can feel never-ending, remember that most instances resolve themselves with the change of seasons. Make an effort to be outside when the weather permits, and fill your home with natural light as much as possible.
Allison Hutton is an experienced writer, editor, communications professional, researcher and social media consultant. During her more than 15 years of communications and writing experience, Allison has worked with a variety of clients, from small business owners to Fortune 500 companies. She has an M.S. in entertainment business, a B.A. in communication and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and four children.