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What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder and How Do You Treat It?

Posted by Dr. Donna Restivo on Feb 10, 2019 1:36:00 PM

In Health Tips, weight loss tips, energy

If you live in an area where you seldom see the sun during the winter months, then you’ve likely heard of seasonal affective disorder. Also known as SAD, this type of depression coincides with the seasons of the year. For most people, SAD symptoms start in the fall and last into the winter months, leaving you feeling down in the dumps and moody. To make matters worse, SAD will leave you with little energy that naturally affects your everyday life.

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Some of the symptoms of SAD include a constant state of depression, low energy, appetite changes, sleep disruptions, a loss of interest in the things you once enjoyed, feeling sluggish and worthless, and difficulty concentrating. 

Before you make the assumption that you simply have a case of the “winter blues,” and you just have to ride it out until springtime, there are some steps you can take to keep you feeling upbeat all year long. First, let’s find out why SAD occurs in the first place… 

Serotonin levels. Known for directly affecting our moods, serotonin is a brain chemical that works as a neurotransmitter. In the winter months, when we are exposed to less sunlight, and we sometimes experience a drop in serotonin, depression is triggered. 

Melatonin levels. Seasonal changes can result in a balance disruption of the body’s level of melatonin, which aids in keeping sleep patterns and moods in line. 

Circadian rhythm. The lack of sunlight in the fall and winter months, may affect the body’s internal clock, which throws things out of whack and leads to feelings of depression. 

Luckily, it is not necessary to go along with this winter slump, and there are a few ways to lessen the symptoms of SAD. 

Light therapy. Also known as phototherapy, this treatment comes in the form of a box that gives off light similar to the sunshine that your body is lacking. Because the light that emits from these boxes is much brighter than regular light bulbs and more similar to natural outdoor light, it does wonders for your mood. By sitting in front of a phototherapy box for 30 minutes a day, you will stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and put a hold on the natural release of melatonin. Depending on your level of the disorder, you may find your symptoms ease up after one week of light exposure, or you many need to face the lamp every day for the entire season. 

Add essential oils to your life. Essential oils do wonders for mood control and the body’s internal clock. Whether you add them to your bath or use a diffuser, these oils can influence the brain area that helps lift your mood. Lavender is ideal for calming and peppermint oil may give you that extra energy and clarity you’ve been lacking. 

Exercise. It’s easier said than done when you aren’t feeling your best, but a well-known remedy for depression is exercise. By going for a walk outdoors or on a treadmill, you may find that your spirits are naturally lifted thanks to the endorphins released in your brain. This stress-fighting chemical, eases anxiety and gives you a sense of clarity.

 


 

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