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7 self-help tips for seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

[FPK Photo/Vikar Syed.]

At the end of fall or the beginning of winter, the gloomy weather makes it hard for even the most productive people to get on normally with their day. While these feelings may be temporary for some, others experience oversleeping, overeating, experiencing weight gain and social withdrawal way more than usual.

These symptoms are part of a condition called seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD or seasonal depression.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at almost the same time every year, typically manifesting during the cold autumn and winter months, when the days are shorter, darker, and chillier.

The darker days can disrupt the body’s internal ‘clock’ and affect parts of the brain that make mood-regulating hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin. This causes us to feel sluggish, sad and unmotivated.

Thousands of Kashmiris slump into SAD every year. Though some may not even realise they have it, the rest experience ‘winter blues’- a milder form of seasonal depression.

SAD can have a serious impact on productivity and day-to-day lifestyle, as the symptoms — if severe — can prevent individuals from stepping out, socialise with people, and engage in any of the activities that they normally pursue.

However, these symptoms can be reduced with a little practice and effort. So if you are having a tough time fighting off the urge to stay in bed lately, then try some of these tips to help you work through your seasonal depression.

1. Catch some rays:

Since SAD strikes the most when there is a shortage of natural light, one of the best ways to lift yourself from the seasonal despair would be to soak in sunlight on a bright fall or winter day.

Even a cloudy day will provide your body with the Vitamin D it has been craving. So, whether it’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning, or something you fit into your lunch break, grab that warm jacket and head out into the great outdoors.

2. Exercise:

Following a regular workout routine is great for the mind and body and can also benefit people with depressive symptoms. Increased exercise and physical activity raise the levels of “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine.

Exercise can also help to improve your sleep. So, getting outside for a move if you’re feeling low might just help to take your mind off things and lift your mood. It doesn’t have to be too intense– go for a walk, gentle jog or cycle if you feel up to it.

3. Watch your junk food intake:

When you’re experiencing symptoms of depression such as sadness or lack of energy, you might turn to comfort foods as a quick pick-me-up. Sure, you’ll get an immediate energy boost, but the feeling isn’t sustained, and eating too much sugary and processed food can negatively impact your health.

Researchers believe that having a diet full of sweets, sugars, and fast food was associated with an increased risk of depression. Conversely, eating patterns that included foods such as vegetables, nuts, fruits and eggs were connected to reduced depression risk.

4. Don’t isolate yourself too much:

It’s not uncommon to want to isolate yourself when feeling depressed, but self-isolating can intensity feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Try finding ways to spend time with loved ones. Connecting with others can help you feel less lonely and give you a sense of belonging.

If you feel comfortable doing so, consider talking with trusted loved ones about why doing regular daily tasks while dealing with seasonal depression is challenging. Finding supportive people to spend time with can help you feel better and remind you that you are loved and cared for.

5. Develop a sleep routine:

Poor sleep quality can also lead to a worsening of depressive symptoms. Lesser hours of sunlight during the winter months can make it harder to feel awake through the day. So, sticking to the same wake-up time each day can be quite beneficial as it helps restore a healthy sleeping pattern.

You can also improve your sleep hygiene by going to bed only when you’re sleepy, staying off of screens in the bedroom, and avoiding caffeine and large meals before bed.

6. Learn a new skill or hobby:

When in a depressive episode, try creating distractions for your brain as it helps relieve symptoms and provide the much-needed relief. Dedicating this period to learn something new is an excellent way to do that.

Research has found that activities like art, education, cooking, reading, and exercise helps people feel a reduction in depression, anxiety, and negative mood.

7. Reach out to a Mental Health Professional:

If you find it difficult to manage your emotions, don’t try to tough it out or suffer in silence! Talk to a mental health professional for a diagnosis and treatment plan. They efficiently monitor your symptoms and make sure that the steps you’re taking are treating you effectively.

A mental healthcare provider may also prescribe antidepressants to deal with SAD or to keep a milder case of “winter blues” from escalating.


Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation. 

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