Tags: Depression | seasonal | affective | disorder | treatment | sad

Seasonal Affective Disorder: 10 Ways to Fight It

Seasonal Affective Disorder: 10 Ways to Fight It
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By    |   Thursday, 28 December 2017 03:06 PM

Suddenly feeling a dip in your mood this winter? You’re not alone. Seasonal affective disorder – sometimes called “winter depression” – is a common mental health problem. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, as many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from SAD.

“SAD can be as debilitating as traditional yearlong anxiety and/or depression,” clinical psychologist Amanda Rafkin tells Newsmax Health.

SAD occurs during winter months, when lower levels of sunlight can affect the balance of hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin. This can negatively impact sleep, mood, and overall wellbeing.

Fortunately, there are ways you can boost your mood during those dark winter months.

Know the warning signs: Rafkin tells Newsmax Health it’s important to acknowledge that you may be prone to feeling sad and less energized during the winter months. By recognizing the signs and symptoms that you may have the disorder, you can create a plan of action – with or without a professional counselor – she says.

Exercise: Studies have shown that regular exercise can ease depression, especially in the winter months. “The benefits of exercise on depression can’t be underestimated,” says Rafkin. She explains that exercise activates dopamine and serotonin, the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. “The flood of dopamine and serotonin can fight symptoms of SAD,” she says. You don’t have to be in marathon shape to reap the emotional benefits of exercise. Moderate physical activity like walking or biking for 30 minutes a day is enough to get the feel good neurotransmitters flowing.

Get connected: Psychotherapist Aimee Bernstein, author of “Stress Less, Achieve More,” says the key to fighting SAD is remaining connected to those around you. She says identifying who is in your “support network” is an important first step to fighting seasonal depression. “Research shows that those with a larger support network can make behavioral changes easier,” she tells MSN. “Create an agreement with your support network to spend time together doing fun things, especially during the winter months, that will shift your mood and energize you.”

Try light therapy: One of the single most effective ways to combat SAD is with a light therapy box. The box beams artificial light that mimics sunshine and natural light. “The SAD lamp helps regulate your circadian rhythms that get thrown off by days with shorter periods of light. Try using the box first thing in the morning,” says Rafkin. She also suggests waking up around the same time every day and making that time fairly early so you can get more hours of daylight.

Keep a journal: Journaling can be an effective tool to combating depression, regardless of the season, says Rafkin. She says depression can cause you to lose sight of the positive aspects of your life, but writing them down can help you to keep them in mind. She suggests starting each journal entry with three things you’re grateful before digesting your emotions for the day.

Meditate: Research shows that meditation can have a positive impact on your mood by boosting serotonin levels. Meditation can help calm your mind and shift your attention away from the reel of anxious and negative thoughts playing out in your mind.

Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms: Rafkin warns that it’s easy to fall into unhealthy coping patterns during dark winter months. These are activities that may feel good in the moment, like drinking or overeating, but later make you feel more anxious and depressed. Rafkin says these things are fine in moderation but should be kept to a minimum.

Seek out the sun: While sunlight is not as abundant during the summer months, you can still get some sunshine during the winter. Try taking in as much natural sunlight as you can during the winter months, even if it’s just getting outside in the morning or opening the blinds during the day. Optimizing the amount of sunshine you get during the day may have a powerful impact against SAD.

Get out of Dodge: What better excuse for a vacation? Taking a winter vacation to a sunny climate may tide you over until the dreary days pave way to more summer light. Rafkin says it’s important to remember that the winter has a definite period and won’t last forever. In the meantime, pack a swimsuit and some sunscreen and head south.

Seek outside help: Rafkin says there’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help if you’re feeling especially blue during the winter months. “A counselor can be a great source of emotional support and can help you identify healthy coping strategies to get you through the winter months,” Rafkin tells Newsmax Health.

© 2019 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

   
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Seasonal affective disorder strikes up to 20 percent of Americans and can negatively impact sleep, mood, and overall well-being. Fortunately, there are ways you can boost your mood during those dark winter months.
seasonal, affective, disorder, treatment, sad
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2017-06-28
Thursday, 28 December 2017 03:06 PM
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