ATHENS, GA- As days become shorter and temperatures become colder, more people feel SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
SAD is a form of depression that usually occurs the same time each year, winter. According to U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), experts believe SAD symptoms are triggered by the decreased amount of daylight. These symptoms are even worse when you’re snowed in and stuck inside.
Decreased sun exposure inhibits the brain from producing the key chemical serotonin, according to NLM. Lower levels of serotonin are often linked to depression. On top of this, the longer periods of darkness also cause the brain to over produce melatonin, a sleep-related chemical. The more melatonin produced, the more lethargic you feel.
NLM states the most common symptoms are fatigue, depression, and changes in sleep cycle; however, changes in appetite, weight fluctuation, and social withdrawal, and can also occur. Symptoms are more common in women than men.
Spring usually brings relief to SAD symptoms but in the meantime here are some things the NLM suggests to keep your mood positive, energy up, and sleep cycle regular.
- Go outside: Even if it’s just a quick walk around your house the exposure to sunlight, or “light therapy,” can help counter the effects of SAD.
- Open the windows: If you just can’t face the cold, opening blinds to make your house sunnier and brighter can help.
- Socialize: Though people suffering from SAD usually have the tendency to recluse, spending time with friends and family can provide relief.
- Work Out: Exercising increases the body’s level of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.
- Eat healthy foods: The tendency will be to eat carbohydrate-full, comfort foods but nutrient rich foods will help you feel better in the long run.
- Take a nap: Sometimes simply taking a nap can help relieve anxiety.
- Stimulate your mind: Though the tendency may be to stay inside and watch Netflix all day, getting your brain moving can help you feel more satisfied and happier.
- Talk it out: Chatting with someone can help you identify and change the negative thoughts and behaviors making you feel bad.
- Medication: In some cases, antidepressants have been used to counter serious SAD related depression.
Though some want to take this time off school and work to celebrate, NLM suggests the use of alcohol and drugs can make depression worse.