Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): How to Find Comfort in Your Emotions

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression associated with seasonal changes, starting and ending around the same time each year. If you’re like most SAD sufferers, your symptoms begin in the fall in the Northern Hemisphere and continue into the winter, sapping your energy and leaving you feeling depressed.

Symptoms

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) signs and symptoms may include:

-Feeling listless, sad, or depressed most of the time, almost every day

-Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

-Lack of energy and feeling sluggish

-Having problems sleeping too much

-Having carbohydrate cravings, overeating, and weight gain

-Difficulty concentrating

-Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty

-Thoughts of committing suicide

Cause

The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder is unknown. Some possible triggers include:

1. Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). Reduced sunlight in autumn and winter may lead to winter-onset seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Decreased sunlight may disrupt your body’s biological clock and lead to depression.

2. serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, may trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, which can trigger depression.

3. Melatonin levels. Seasonal changes can disrupt the balance of the body’s melatonin levels, which play an important role in sleep patterns and mood.

Risk factors

Women are more likely than men to develop seasonal affective disorder.SAD is more common in younger people than in older people.

Factors that may increase the risk of developing seasonal affective disorder include:

1. Family medical history. people with SAD are more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or other forms of depression.

2. Major depression or bipolar disorder. If you have one of these conditions, symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally.

3. Live far from the equator. SAD seems to be more common in people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to less sunlight in the winter and longer days in the summer.

4. Low vitamin D levels. Exposure of the skin to sunlight produces some vitamin D, which helps to enhance serotonin activity. Insufficient exposure to sunlight and insufficient intake of vitamin D from food and other sources may result in low levels of vitamin D in the body.

How to combat SAD?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent SAD and keep your life on track this autumn/winter season.

1. Get regular exercise. At least 30 minutes of physical activity a day can activate your neurotransmitters and boost your mood. If you can, trying outdoor exercise such as winter cycling is even more effective in relieving seasonal affective disorder. Spending time outdoors will undoubtedly improve your mood.

2. Expose yourself to as much sunlight as possible. During the colder months, it’s important to get natural sunlight. Try sitting outside for a while during the day or just opening the blinds in your home to soak up nature’s Vitamin D. Unlike many other nutrients, vitamin D can be produced by your body and obtained through exposure to sunlight. Even cloudy days can cause UV rays to penetrate your skin.

3. Try light therapy. Light therapy is a great option when the weather is overcast or there isn’t any natural light available. Sit in front of a light box for at least 20 minutes first thing in the morning.

4. Connect with friends and loved ones. The cold weather may make you feel isolated in your home, but the best thing you can do is spend time with people who make you feel cared for. Having a positive support network can lift your mood and free you from negativity.

5. Meditate. Meditation calms your mind and releases any anxious thoughts. After meditating, many people will feel calmer and more relaxed as their serotonin levels rise.

Embrace Your Emotions

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are feeling down, as with many works of art that render sadness without abandoning it. As one of the strongest emotions we perceive, sadness and depression touch us deeply and enable us to feel more grateful for everything around us, and the more we will live in harmony with our surroundings and environment if we embrace and welcome all of our inner feelings equally.

Remember, SAD is common and usually goes away after the winter months. However, if your symptoms are stressing you out, or if you notice a significant decline in your mental health, or even feelings of depression, worthlessness, or suicide, please call 988, (the US’ suicide and crisis hotline) for help, in Canada, call “1-833-456-4566” or text “45645“.

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