Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to changes in seasons. SAD typically begins and ends at about the same time every year. This disorder is likely to leave you exhausted and irritable.
You may have SAD and not even know it.
Often symptoms start in the fall and continue thru the winter, and begin to dissipate in the spring. People might call it “winter blues” or “holiday funk”.
According to Psychology Today, SAD affects about 10 million Americans and is 4x more common in women than in men.
Here are some signs to help you assess whether or not seasonal affective disorder is present in your life. Keep in mind these symptoms tend to come on slowly through the fall and worsen in the depths of winter.
SAD symptoms may include:
- Loss of interested in previously loved activities
- Feelings of sadness
- Increased appetite
- Cravings for comfort foods
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Weight gain
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
What you can do about it:
From a naturopathic view, there are many natural options to shift away from SAD being a yearly trial.
Check your vitamin D status
Low vitamin D is associated with high rates of depression and anxiety. Ask your doctor to test your 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25-OH D) to make sure you have enough. I recommend my patients maintain vitamin D levels between 60-80 ng/mL. If you need to supplement, make sure to use a clean source of D3.
Increase light exposure
A special full-spectrum light bulb can help to ease seasonal depression. Set up a light in your home so you can spend at least an hour in this illumination. This may mean it is on your desk or in your bathroom while you get ready every morning.
Move your body
Many people find that the move a lot less in the winter. If this is true for you, find a way to build movement into your day. Consider setting up a yoga mat with your full-spectrum light close by! Aim for 30-60 minutes of movement every day.
Keep a routine
Sticking to a regular schedule can help to improve your sleep and reduce stress. Set a time to wake up and go to bed that you can maintain. Routine is fuel for your mind and hormone balance!