Help for Seasonal Depression
When cool weather comes knocking and the nights become longer than the days, we can feel the seasons change. But for some people, it’s more than just a progression of nature. They may feel their personality changing with the season as their mood slumps and lethargy takes over. If you experience this phenomenon as the winter months set in, you may have seasonal depression.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of clinical depression that tends to emerge and recur in particular seasons of the year. For a majority of SAD sufferers, the symptoms start during the fall season and peak in winter. The symptoms then go into remission in the spring and summer seasons.
What Causes Seasonal Depression?
The etiology of seasonal depression is still unknown. However, most researchers agree that the decreasing daylight experienced during the winter period triggers depressive symptoms across the population. This loss of daylight affects the internal clock of the body due to changes caused by several brain chemicals dependent on sunlight. Such brain chemicals include serotonin, which contributes to mood regulation, and melatonin, which is essential in developing and maintaining proper sleep-wake patterns.
A reduction in daylight results in a significant drop in the serotonin levels and an increase in melatonin levels in the human body. The lower levels of serotonin lead to low moods while the higher levels of melatonin result in unhealthy sleep-wake patterns that lead to drowsiness and sluggishness.
What Are The Symptoms Of Seasonal Depression?
Because of the lack of an identified cause of seasonal depression, the disorder may go undiagnosed in the primary care setting. Some doctors will write off seasonal depression as “winter blues” and not do much to address it.
Symptoms of SAD include:
- Loss of interest in activities ordinarily enjoyed
- A decrease in energy and concentration spans
- Trouble sleeping and trouble waking up in the morning
- Sudden changes in weight (weight gain or weight loss)
- Rampant irritability and depressive feelings
- Decreased sex drive
Is There a Treatment for SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder can be treated through medical prescriptions; however, this is not the treatment avenue that this article will explore. Rather, we will discuss alternative treatments of seasonal depression that can be effective in alleviating symptoms.
Get a dawn simulator
Dawn simulators are a special kind of alarm clock. These alarm clocks do not go off in the morning with the typical beeping or loud music. Rather, they produce light that increases in intensity, steadily mimicking the rising of the sun. Among the very many models of dawn simulators available, full-spectrum light dawn simulators provide the closest imitation of natural sunlight.
Dawn simulators are an artificial way of ensuring that your body receives the morning sunlight levels in winter that it would receive during the warm seasons. This results in lifting the individual’s mood and enhancing cognitive and physical performance.
Try herbal remedies
Herbal remedies have been known to provide the same medicinal results as their chemical counterparts, but with fewer side effects or risks. Two herbal supplements that have shown to be viable remedies in moderating the symptoms of seasonal depression are St. John’s Wort and Rhodiola Rosea.
St. John’s Wort is considered to be a mild anti-depressant with components that are indirectly associated with the increase of the serotonin chemical in the brain. To combat seasonal depression, sufferers of SAD can take a St. John’s Wort tincture of between 40 to 60 drops in a glass of cold water, three times daily. It is also available in capsule form.
Rhodiola Rosea, on the other hand, is an herbal solution considered to be adaptogenic. Its consumption is believed to help the body cope with biological and physical stressors. Rhodiola Rosea improves your resilience by increasing the activity of the brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, responsible for impacting your mood. This can help balance your energy level as well as improve your mental state.
Experiment with aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is the practice of using aromatic essential oils to improve well-being psychologically and physically. The aroma of certain essential oils is believed to stimulate various regions of the brain including those that control the human endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for regulating the internal clock and mood of an individual, which, in turn, affects sleep patterns and appetite. Thus, aromatherapy can affect the symptoms of SAD.
To maximize the benefits of aromatherapy, it is necessary to use an essential oil diffuser. The diffuser works by dispersing the essential oil in the environment, allowing you to inhale it. Some of the most notable mood-lifting essential oils include lemongrass, bergamot, and lavender. A few drops of lavender essential oil can also be added to a bath taken before bedtime to help you relax more and get better sleep.
Change your scenery
Packing a bag and leaving town can help reduce seasonal depression. Some people are able to be “winter visitors”—spending the winter months in warm and sunny climates. If you can’t make that luxury a reality, a short vacation can also help—if only temporarily. The anticipation of a vacation can carry you along for a few weeks, and the trip itself can rejuvenate your spirits and make everything look better when you return.
Join a support group
Seasonal depression is predictable and follows a pattern. So as a SAD sufferer, you usually know what’s coming as fall turns into winter. One of the best ways of treating seasonal depression is to prepare for it by joining a SAD support group. It may sound like a drastic measure but sharing your experience of dealing with seasonal depression with individuals who share your struggles can be very therapeutic.
Medication may help some people overcome SAD symptoms, but it can come with unwanted side effects. The options we’ve shared here have worked for many people, and they may also allow you to alleviate symptoms naturally and break free from the confines of seasonal affective disorder.
Depression no matter what kind of trigger there was, it should be given attention especially among the household members. People who are suffering from depression need understanding from their environment. This infographic provides basic information about depression and some ways that you can help the people experiencing it. Don’t judge them; instead, teach them how to cope with it because you are also helping yourself not to be trapped in this dilemma.