At first glance, seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) seems like “the blues” in capital letters. Psychology Today defines it as “a type of recurrent major depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year,” usually the fall and winter months. Symptoms include feelings of hopeless, irritability, changes in appetite, and even suicidal thoughts. It makes life a real struggle when the weather is cold and the sunlight is scarce.
Overcoming this disorder is not easy, though common practices associated with self-care go a long way in achieving that. Self-care techniques should include healthy eating, exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep, and giving your mood a quick boost through pleasurable activities, such as having a massage or getting a haircut.
Here’s a closer look at how these measures, along with others, help sufferers of this mental illness get through the hard times and hopefully learn to smile again.
Eat the Right Foods
And a writer with EatingWell has a few recommendations linked to the causes of the disorder itself. According to research, it’s caused by a lack of vitamin D, which is normally produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Fatty fish contain that vitamin in high amounts, as do fortified milk and egg yolks. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids may also help.
Spend Time Outside
Of course, if vitamin D is produced thanks to the skin’s exposure to the sun, then heading outdoors in the morning or afternoon makes a lot of sense, even if it’s only for an hour or two during your lunch break. The resulting increase in mood will only be enhanced by the wildlife and trees that give nature its endless charm.
Find a Fun Physical Activity
Those who suffer from SAD often have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, let alone going for a jog. However, as exercise is known to relieve symptoms of depression and boost one’s mood, it’s a necessary part of any therapy. The key is to find something enjoyable, such as a team sport, for example — this could provide all the motivation necessary you need.
One of the most accessible ways to practice mindfulness is through meditation. One woman who suffered from years of depression turned to this ancient practice by following instructions via a smartphone app after medication failed her. In the Washington Post, she shares how her negative thought patterns began to change for the better after just one week.
Develop a Sleep Routine
A sleep routine starts with a strict bedtime, then sticking to it every evening. There are ways to induce drowsiness and doze off more quickly, such as taking a warm shower, sipping an herbal infusion, or reading a book. Of course, consuming caffeine late in the day is a definite “no.” These efforts should lead to healthy sleep and the mood regulation it brings.
Hang Out with Friends
Depressive disorders tend to keep their victims shut inside their own home, too tired, and anxious to pursue a social life. However, that only exacerbates the symptoms, whereas a meal or a drink with the gang would do a world of good, and it’s worth making a regular thing.
Wake Up with a Dawn Simulator
This is little more than a lamp that lightens up gradually in the morning, mimicking the rising sun during the spring. The goal is to trick your body into thinking that it’s waking into a warmer and brighter day. A light box can be used for a quick pick-me-up whenever necessary.
The warm weather will be back soon, along with the healing rays of the spring sun. This should provide some hope, and with some help, seasonal affective disorder sufferers don’t have to dread the rest of the winter. It can be wonderful with the right lifestyle changes.
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