Are you suffering from fall and winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Here's the ten best ways to cope with your symptoms.
1. Get in tune with Mother Nature.
- Spend as much time outside during the day as you can- especially when it’s sunny out! However, don’t be fooled by the clouds! You can still receive the benefits of daylight when the sky is overcast, so be sure to get out of the house or office whether cloud or shine.5
2. Make some environmental modifications.
- Position your desk or other frequently used furniture next to a window and make sure those curtains are fully drawn.1 You can also trim tree branches that obstruct your windows and even add skylights to your home for additional natural light. If your home has few windows and adding more is not an option, consider purchasing lamps and other indoor artificial lighting to increase your exposure to light.2
3. Eat foods that are rich in Vitamin D, or if necessary, take a Vitamin D supplement.
- Sources of Vitamin D include the flesh of fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, cod, and swordfish; milk; orange juice; and yogurt.3
4. Keep a consistent sleep routine.
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including the weekends and holidays, has been shown to improve sleep, and improved sleep can help reduce depression.2
5. Stay active.
- Exercise is a critical component because of its ability to bring people joy through the release of endorphins. Specific exercises that focus on breathing, such as yoga, tae kwon do, and tai chi, allow the body to increase its amount of oxygen, facilitating a state of relaxation and mindfulness, which can improve mood.4
6. Stay connected.
- Make an effort to socialize with friends and family you enjoy being around for support during the winter months.1
7. Practice stress management.
- If stress goes unchecked, it can contribute to depression, increased consumption of food, and other thoughts and behaviors that can be destructive to one’s health.1
8. Take a Vacay.
- Save your vacation days from work for the cold and dreary months to escape to warmer, sunnier weather in order to refuel on vitamin D3.2
9. With the prescription from a doctor, try light therapy, also known as phototherapy.
- What is light therapy, you might ask? It is a practice that involves being exposed to a bright white fluorescent light covered by a plastic screen that prevents emission of ultraviolent rays.5 The fluorescent light mimics the natural light you receive outdoors and initiates a change in brain chemicals associated with mood. Patients are typically prescribed 15 to 30 minutes of daily exposure to 10,000 Lux, which is the measure used for intensity of light, at a distance of 2 to 3 feet from the light. Recent studies indicate that morning treatments may produce greater effects than evening light therapy due to potential insomnia if performed late in the day. It is possible for patients to see improvements within two to four days after starting light therapy and full effects usually follow within two weeks! However, the symptoms are quick to return, therefore most patients need to participate in light therapy for the duration of the season.
- But beware, there are contraindications to light therapy. If you have retinopathies, diabetes, or are taking certain medications, you should avoid this treatment because damage to the retina of the eye is possible. People with bipolar disorder may also need to be supervised by a healthcare professional if participating in light therapy because it can induce manic or hypomanic symptoms.
10. If you are still having difficulty making gains after trying several of these strategies, it is possible that you may need psychotherapy or antidepressant medication to relieve more severe cases of the disorder—consult your doctor for an individualized plan of care.1