Daylight savings time is ending and winter weather is coming, meaning darker evenings, colder temperatures and less time spent outside in the sunlight. Have you noticed winter weather affecting your mood? You may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD or seasonal depression. Healthy365 has some tips to help improve your mental wellness and keep you and your family from feeling so “SAD” this winter. 

How does Seasonal Affective Disorder work?

In the majority of cases, Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs in late fall or early winter and goes away in the spring, but it can also affect some people in spring or early summer. Symptoms can start out mild and increase as the season continues. Common symptoms include feeling depressed for most of the day, losing interest in favorite activities, feeling sluggish or low energy, problems with sleeping or concentrating, or feeling hopeless. Specific to winter SAD, you may notice weight gain, oversleeping or appetite changes, especially a craving for carbs. 

Talking to a doctor about treatment

It’s normal for many of us to feel less motivated or down in the winter. However, if your low energy or lack of motivation is affecting your ability to enjoy life or get things done, you should talk to your doctor. Feeling depressed for most of the day, and on most days, is an important sign that you should seek treatment. You should also talk to a doctor if you frequently turn to food or alcohol for comfort and to get through your days, or if you are feeling suicidal. If you are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, you and your doctor can discuss the most effective treatment options for your situation. 

Trying light therapy at home

Light therapy, also called phototherapy, is a very common treatment for fall- and winter-based Seasonal Affective Disorder. You can discuss with your doctor the best type of lightbox to purchase, as well as when and how to use it. There are a number of lightbox options available for purchase online with varying price points, but you’ll want to make sure you find one that is safe and of good quality. Generally, you sit near the lightbox within an hour of waking up in order to mimic natural light outside, boosting mood and improving symptoms of SAD. In addition to light therapy, getting outside when it is light out or exercising regularly can help improve symptoms naturally. 

Starting on antidepressant medication

Another treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is medication, such as an antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug. If you are already taking an antidepressant, your doctor may recommend increasing the dosage. If you are starting an antidepressant for the first time, it’s important to remember that it can take a few weeks to feel the full effects. Because of this, some doctors may suggest beginning this treatment in advance of your SAD onset if it is an annual occurrence. Starting an antidepressant can also bring additional symptoms as your body calibrates to the new medication, but you should see your mood start to level out within a few weeks. If you are still having trouble with feelings of depression or low energy, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and consider trying a different medication. 

Working with a therapist

Counseling or talk therapy with a licensed mental health professional is another way to work through your Seasonal Affective Disorder. Trained therapists can help you to learn how to better manage your stress or mood, identify and improve behaviors that are affecting your SAD symptoms, and learn healthy ways to cope. Many mental health professionals may also incorporate mindfulness techniques such as meditation or focusing breathing to improve your mood and find ways to relax.

At Healthy365, we would love to connect you with local resources such as a primary care doctor or mental health professional to help you cope with the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Reach out online or at 317-468-4231 to learn more about the services and connections we offer.