Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of recurrent depression that many people suffer from, and it can look a lot like clinical depression. SAD was first identified by Dr. Normal E. Rosenthal in 1980, and it is estimated that 5% of the population (or one in 20 people) suffer from the syndrome in its full capacity. It is estimated that three times that amount suffer the milder version of SAD, sometimes referred to as the “winter blues.” Similarly, this version accounts for a loss of pleasure in everyday life and feelings of fatigue and sadness.
As the days grow cold and dark, many people suffer from feelings of pervasive sadness, fatigue, loss of interest in activities that used to bring pleasure, difficulty concentrating, excessive sleep, and appetite changes. The changes in seasons can throw off your circadian rhythm, which can be one of the reasons for the onset of these symptoms. According to the American Psychiatric Association, SAD is a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by less daylight and less sunlight.
To add insult to injury, we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, which further limits our ability to leave the house, see friends, and get exercise. Because of this, more people are affected by this disorder than normal. It is more important than ever for people to find coping mechanisms to combat the disorder. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to keep your mood and motivation up if you start to notice symptoms of SAD.
While symptoms certainly get worse in January and February, SAD can start to affect people around daylight savings. If possible, in the fall months and early spring, try to take a 20-30 minute walk outside each day. This can get you the recommended dose of vitamin D, but exercise also releases endorphins, which will help elevate mood. Because of the pandemic, most of us aren’t getting the same amount of exercise we once did. While you may not have noticed the number of steps you were taking before (walking to your transportation, grabbing coffee, or going from meeting to meeting) they were significantly higher than now, where many people are working remotely. Trying to hit your steps every day is a good goal towards improved mental health.
Vitamin D and Nature
If it is not possible to get outside and walk or get natural sunlight by sitting by a window, light therapy is an option that can yield similar results. Light therapy can normalize circadian rhythms by stimulating retinal cells, which connect to the hypothalamus, according to Dr. Leela R. Magavi. Sunlight and light therapy affect brain chemicals that are linked to mood and sleep, so getting enough light can help symptoms such as fatigue and depression. Nature’s presence actually affects our well being, believe it or not. Similar to getting enough sunlight, connecting with nature can reduce stress and increase pleasant feelings.
Make Distanced Social Time a Priority
While the pandemic certainly limits our social interactions, it is imperative we make time with family and friends a priority. Facetiming, having a Zoom party, or meeting outside for a meal when it’s warmer can help to improve feelings of loneliness and isolation. Lack of social interactions is a big cause for SAD, so making time for it is really important to maintain a healthy and optimistic mindset.
Spending Time on Hobbies
Although you may feel a loss of interest in things that used to bring pleasure, it’s helpful to force yourself to participate in hobbies to feel a sense of purpose and to relieve stress. This could be playing an instrument, learning to knit, taking an online class, or doing at-home workouts. Hobbies allow you to decompress while remaining mentally productive. They also give you a sense of accomplishment. If you are stuck inside all day long, it can feel like you aren’t doing much of anything. Learning to play a new song or beating your last HIIT goal can make you feel empowered. In many cases, this can greatly reduce depression.
Creating a Structured Day
During the colder months, and especially with the pandemic limiting our ability to leave the house, it can be tempting to stay in bed all day. It is important to create structure in your day, even if it is as minimal as waking up at a certain time and starting the day with a cup of coffee. Routines are linked to improved mental health because they decrease stress and anxiety, and set boundaries for yourself between work and play.
In more severe cases, treatments like light therapy, talk therapy, or antidepressants can help reduce SAD symptoms. In addition, ketamine infusions may be the best bet for hope and health.
There is hope during COVID-19. Contact us for a free consultation today.
Contact Ketamine Greater Boston
Ketamine Greater Boston offers Spravato™ nasal spray and ketamine infusions for the treatment of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other psychiatric conditions. If you are suffering from treatment-resistant depression and haven’t found a solution, ketamine could be what you’re looking for. Contact us for a free consultation today to learn more about ketamine infusions and find out if you’re a candidate.