Do you or someone you know constantly experience episodes of mood problems at certain times of the year, such as late fall or winter? If so, you could be a victim of an infamous type of depression called seasonal depression, which is said to affect roughly 0.5 to 3 percent of the general population.
And as much as it is more common in women and people with other types of depressive disorders, seasonal depression is pretty much treatable as long as you can spot the symptoms. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how to identify the symptoms of seasonal depression alongside a few ways to treat it at home.
What Is Seasonal Depression? Symptoms and Causes and Treatment
Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that’s usually triggered by the changing of the seasons, more often in winter. It can affect people of all ages but is more common in women, young adults, and individuals with preexisting depressive disorders. The symptoms of SAD often resemble those of typical depression and may include changes in appetite, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and social withdrawal.
People with SAD may find it difficult to enjoy activities they once found pleasurable, and they may also experience changes in their sleep patterns. While the exact cause of SAD is unknown, it is believed to be related to a disruption in the body’s natural circadian rhythms caused by reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter months. Treatment for SAD typically involves light therapy, psychotherapy, and/or medication.
Ways to Identify and Treat Seasonal Depression At Home
1. Monitor Your Mood
Since SAD is generally a mood-related depressive disorder, it helps to pay attention to your mood and how it changes throughout the day, week, and season. Record your thoughts and feelings in a journal to help you spot changes or trends.
2. Track Your Sleep Habits
Since SAD often disrupts the sleep-wake cycle or the circadian rhythm, seasonal depression can manifest itself in changes to your sleep habits. If you experience a drastic change in your sleep patterns in the colder, darker seasons like fall and winter, you could be suffering from seasonal depression.
3. Physical Symptoms
Seasonal depression can also cause a myriad of physical symptoms. These may include headaches, joint pain, and fatigue. Be mindful of any physical changes and if they become frequent or severe, make sure to seek medical advice.
4. Other SAD Symptoms to Watch Out For
- Interests: Seasonal depression can lead to decreased interest in activities you once enjoyed. Monitor your interest in activities and hobbies to spot changes.
- Eating Habits: Changes to your eating habits can also be a sign of seasonal depression. Monitor your appetite and your cravings for certain types of food through different seasons.
- Negative Thinking: Seasonal depression can cause negative thoughts and feelings. If you find yourself having negative thoughts, identify them and think of ways to challenge them.
Tips for Treating Seasonal Depression At Home
While it is always advisable to consult with your medical provider to rule out other health issues, there are several ways to treat seasonal depression from home. Some of these include:
Consider Light Therapy
If you’re experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, light therapy can help reduce your symptoms. It often involves exposure to bright artificial light that mimics natural sunlight for about 30 minutes each day. Besides helping to restore your body’s internal clock, light therapy can help improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase energy levels.
Regular exercise can go a long way in relieving stress and anxiety, improving mood, and promoting sleep. And since light is a common factor in most if not all SAD symptoms, knowing how to use light when you work out is an added advantage. It’s more advisable to have natural light or artificial cortisol-boosting mood lights during your workouts, preferably hours before bedtime.
At the very least, aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise several times weekly, or try a daily 10-minute walk in the fresh air. You can also incorporate relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises into your workout routine.
Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene
One of the best ways to ease your way out of seasonal depression is to make sure you’re getting enough, restful sleep each day. Practicing good sleep hygiene could mean several things, including avoiding screens and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine for at least an hour before bed.
It also means designing a sleep environment that promotes slumber, from comfortable bedding to ensuring sleep-friendly in your bedroom.
Go Outside and Socialize
Exposure to natural light has been shown to help alleviate seasonal depression. Besides helping relieve stress and calm the mind, being outside can have numerous benefits to your health and overall wellness.
Try to spend at least 15 minutes outdoors each day, even if it’s just a walk around the block. While at it, do your best to connect with others and make time for face-to-face interactions with friends and family.
Seasonal depression might be more common than most people care to think. And in case you suspect falling victim to this notably rare disorder, you now know how to spot the symptoms and treat them at home before they do more damage to your health and wellbeing.
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