How to Deal With Seasonal Affective Disorder This Winter
Do you notice significant fluctuations in your mood during the colder, darker months? Is it harder to focus or complete daily tasks? Does your appetite or sleep pattern change?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that affects approximately 0.5-3% of the general population. However, among people who have depression, that number spikes to about 10-20%.
While this time may feel challenging, implementing strategic coping strategies can improve how you feel. Let’s get into what you need to know.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) occurs in response to the changing seasons. The condition can emerge at any time, but it commonly begins during early adulthood. Most people first start experiencing symptoms during fall, and they can persist throughout the winter season.
Common seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or depressed for most of the day on most days.
- Experiencing low energy.
- Difficulties with concentration and focus.
- Changes in appetite or weight.
- Feeling persistently sluggish.
- Agitation and irritability.
- Thoughts of worthlessness or hopelessness.
- Suicidal thoughts.
During the winter, people with SAD may struggle with overeating, oversleeping, and social isolation. Winter-pattern seasonal affective disorder is most common, but some people experience this condition during the summertime.
What Are the Best Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Depression is treatable, and it’s important to understand different options that can help improve your condition. Keep in mind that you may need to try various approaches to learn what works best for you.
Your winter self-care plans may look different than your activities in the warmer months, but it’s essential that you prioritize your mental health.
Many people find that spending more time outdoors (or even sitting by a window if the weather is bad) can make a noticeable difference in boosting their mood. So try to schedule taking a morning walk, eating lunch outside, or even just working by a window for an hour each day.
Of course, make sure you’re bundled and dressed appropriately for the weather. Taking care of your physical health (especially in harsh conditions) is just as imperative as taking care of your mental health.
Sometimes, increasing sunlight exposure isn’t realistic (or safe). This is particularly true if you’re in hazardous weather conditions.
In these cases, light therapy can help. Light therapy refers to using artificial lightboxes to stimulate the effects of natural outdoor light.
It’s a good idea to consult with your doctor or a qualified mental health professional before getting started. There are many different lightboxes available, and you want to ensure that you use a high-quality, effective product.
Effective light therapy requires an appropriate combination of light duration, timing, and intensity. Sessions typically last 20-30 minutes and are most beneficial in the early morning. Lightbox intensity is recorded in lux, and a standard recommendation is to use a 10,000 lux.
The mind and body are intricately connected, and it’s crucial to practice stress management during these challenging months.
You can start by focusing on increasing mindfulness throughout the day. Consider meditating for a few minutes every morning or night. Take up a yoga or tai chi class. Limit excess distractions and place boundaries around your technology use.
When you find yourself feeling stressed, pause and relax. Take a few deep breaths. Reflect on your gratitude for a few moments. Repeat this pattern as often as necessary, and you should find that you feel a little more relaxed and clearheaded.
Antidepressants can be beneficial in reducing depression symptom severity. Some people take medication throughout the year, whereas others take them specifically during the winter months.
Remember that everyone responds to medication differently. Different types (and dosages) will have various effects on your body and mood.
Furthermore, all medications have various risks and side effects. It’s best to speak with your doctor or psychiatrist to discuss your options. They will also routinely assess how the medication is working.
Therapy can be helpful in understanding, managing, and treating seasonal affective disorder. Your therapist can assist you in identifying various triggers, reducing stress, and coping with distressing symptoms effectively.
Furthermore, many people struggling with SAD also experience co-occurring mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, PTSD, or eating disorders. Therapy offers a professional roadmap for managing these symptoms as a whole. In other words, rather than focusing on treating one problem at a time, you can learn how to improve your overall well-being.
Final Thoughts on How to Deal With Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal changes can be stressful, but they are an inevitable part of life. Learning how to deal with seasonal affective disorder requires recognizing your triggers and taking action-based steps for managing particular symptoms.
At Willow Counseling, we are here to help. We specialize in treating conditions like anxiety and depression, and we understand the difficulties of SAD. Contact us today to learn more and schedule your initial consultation.