Seasonal depression is a condition where people experience symptoms such as decreased energy, a lack of motivation, depressive thoughts, oversleeping or insomnia. It most commonly develops during the winter (especially in the mid-Atlantic and New England regions, where the cold and often-overcast season lasts longer), but it can develop during the other seasons as well.
The technical name of this ailment is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and though it’s frequently referred to as “the winter blues,” they aren’t entirely the same. The winter blues typically refers to a mild case of seasonal depression that can usually be relieved at home, while SAD is a more severe case that often requires professional help to resolve.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at seasonal affective disorder, its main causes, symptoms to identify in yourself and the best ways you can remedy this condition during winter.
Seasonal depression – Winter
Different seasons affect people differently, and so, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can occur to anyone all year long, though it is rare to occur in spring and summer. SAD is most prevalent during the winter months due to how many health-hindering factors are influencing us at the same time, including—decreased sun exposure (Vitamin D deficiency), increased sugar and alcohol intake, consecutive gloomy, gray days and more.
The symptoms of SAD are similar to symptoms of “traditional” depression, which is why the biggest sign of which condition is present will be when exactly the symptoms developed.
The most common symptoms include:
Lack of energy (lethargy)
Depressive feelings or thoughts
Trouble sleeping (or sleeping too much)
Disinterest in relationships and activities
Lack of motivation or self-control
Significant weight gain or weight loss
If you’ve been exhibiting several of the above systems for several consecutive weeks (or you’ve seen the signs in a loved one), you may be struggling with seasonal depression this winter.
The good news? It’s temporary.
How to overcome seasonal depression
Depending on the severity, this condition may be completely treatable at home (such as in the case of the winter blues). Even with the more severe cases like SAD, the below methods can greatly benefit you during recovery.
1. Exercise in a way you enjoy
Exercising regularly isn’t easy, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. One of the greatest things about exercise is there’s no one way to do it; if you don’t like running on a treadmill, you don’t have to. If you love long walks in nature, do that.
Exercise is intentional movement, and intentional movement can be a variety of activities from running or walking to roller-blading or riding a bike, and many more ways to get up and move.
When it comes to exercise, anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes a day can make all the difference in both your mental and physical health.
2. Prioritize your nutrition
The state of our mental and brain health is directly impacted by what we eat, and certain diets, such as those high in sugar and alcohol (which are especially common during the winter months due to holidays) lead to chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a physical state that has been linked to countless illnesses, including depression, anxiety, diabetes and liver disease, according to a study from Psycom.net.
You can prioritize your nutrition by eating “clean protein” over processed meats (grass-fed beef over hot dogs), whole grains (brown rice over white), an abundance of fruits and vegetables and drinking at least eight glasses of water per day.
3. Up your sunlight intake
How you do this might look a little different, depending on where you live. On days that aren’t as cold and are producing great sunshine, step outside for at least 15 minutes. To maximize sun absorption, consider wearing shorts and/or a tank top if the weather allows.
If it never gets warm enough to spend that kind of time outside, your best alternative would be to buy a lightbox. These boxes can be as big as a space heater or small enough to prop on your desk, but they all perform the same job: mimic the rays of the sun to trick your body into producing Vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin” we all become deficient in during winter). Remember though, just like the sun, don’t look directly at it!
4. Reach out for help when you need it
There are many different options for seasonal depression treatment that depend on factors such as the severity of the condition, how long it’s been present, and whether it’s actually seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder) or “the blues.”
Conventional treatment methods include light therapy, psychotherapy and medication. Holistic treatment methods include nature therapy, nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle changes.
Here at Tapestry, our treatment plans merge both traditional and holistic techniques in order to address the full spectrum of your health: mind, body and soul.
Start your recovery today
Tapestry is a premier behavioral health treatment provider that offers an evolved approach to eating disorders, substance use disorders and mental health treatment. We recognize the existence of these conditions is rarely isolated and that their development is often the result of other factors (such as trauma), which is why we offer a multifaceted approach to treatment.