If the dark, cold days of winter have you feeling down, it’s not your fault, or a statement on your mental toughness. Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly referred to as SAD or seasonal depression, affects 10 million Americans, according to Boston University.
SAD isn’t just feelings of melancholy, Psychiatry Today reports. It can show itself in loss of interest in the things you used to enjoy doing, change in sleep, difficulty concentrating, having less energy, or even heavy, depressive thoughts.
This change in hormonal balance in the brain is triggered by lack of daylight during the winter months, coupled with a decrease in sunshine. The symptoms usually subside when the days start to get longer and we can see that beautiful, warm sun again.
If you’re experiencing these feelings, you don’t need to tough it out until spring. There are several treatment options you can try and see if they improve your feelings this winter. Remember, you’re not alone!
Lightboxes are a common form of therapy for SAD. Sitting in front of a 10,000 lux light box in the morning can help improve the symptoms people experience, as the light mimics the sun. Sunlight helps regulate the serotonin levels in our brain, so the lack of sunlight can lead to imbalances, researchers have found.
Before choosing a lightbox, Mayo Clinic recommends talking over your options with a doctor, as sometimes, too much intense light too quickly can be overwhelming.
Connecting with a counselor may be helpful for discussing your symptoms, as well as any other underlying challenges you’re facing in the midst of the dark seasons. Often people in “talk therapy” learn ways to schedule activities both inside and outside that they can look forward to. These sessions over the years can help improve responses to seasonal change long term, according to The National Institute of Mental Health.
Talk with your doctor and let them know what symptoms you’re experiencing. They can help point you in the right direction, whether that’s medication like antidepressants or other forms of therapy based on your symptoms.
If you or someone you love is in need of immediate help, contact the free, confidential Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or visiting their website.
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