Everyone feels sad occasionally, but SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder) is depression which is affected by the changing seasons. This means that feelings of sadness, hopelessness, social isolation and lack of motivation/ interest come and go as the weather, sunlight and temperature change.
This does not mean that SAD does not exist in other seasons or countries. There is also a type of depression specific to summer and spring called summer depression which brings on symptoms like insomnia, loss of appetite and increased anxiety.
People who experience SAD often say that they feel like a completely different person in certain months of the year due to the significant shifts in their mood. Also, people with a history of depression are more likely to experience SAD as they report that their symptoms tend to get worse.
Interestingly, women are four times more likely to experience SAD, especially if they are of childbearing age. As people age, they are less at risk for the condition. Along with geography, one’s family history of depression and mental health is also a factor in determining the prevalence of the disorder.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
This is an unanswered question in the psychology community, but it is suspected that changes in daylight and temperature cause chemical changes in the brain, shifting the neurotransmitters, and causing an imbalance of serotonin and melatonin- ultimately changing patterns in one's mood and sleep.
SAD is more prevalent in the winter months and is accompanied by feelings of oversleeping, increased appetite (especially carbohydrates), sluggishness, low energy and weight gain. People living in colder countries tend to have a higher rate of Seasonal Affective Disorder than warmer countries, making Canada a prime example.
Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
If you experience symptoms of SAD, there are ways to manage and cope with your symptoms.
Light therapy and Supplementation
Have you heard of artificial light boxes that mimic the sun?
Exposing yourself to this life in the daytime tricks your body into thinking it is outside in the sun, causing the circadian rhythm to regulate. You can simply sit in front of the light box every morning for 30-60 minutes for noticeable results. You can easily combine this therapy with other sitting tasks, such as eating your breakfast, working etc.
Low exposure to sunshine can also cause a deficiency in Vitamin D, which is commonly seen in people affected by SAD. Regular supplementation of Vitamin D can help balance your mood.
Adding some exercise to your morning routine signals your body to ‘wake up’, which further regulates the sleep-wake cycle. This can help you with your symptoms of low energy/ sluggishness during the day. You can stack two habits by exercising after light therapy for a double boost!
Do Less, and Regulate your Sleep Cycle
Notice nature around you in the winter- it is quiet and dormant with barren trees. This signals to us a time of restoration and nourishment. Many holistic modalities believe that since we are a part of nature, harmonizing our bodies with the seasons by adjusting our habits and lifestyles can help balance and energize our mind, body and spirit. The more you can sync your body rhythm with nature’s clock, the more energized you will feel in the daytime. You don’t need to be up late at night anymore. Of course, this does not mean you should go to bed at 4 pm, but notice if making your day shorter, or winding down earlier in the day has an impact on your SAD symptoms.
Keep it Fun and Social
A couple of major SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) symptoms include a lack of interest in activities and social isolation. You might have to make an extra effort during the winter, but find something that uplifts you! Darkness and rain/ snow can easily dampen one’s mood. You might have to go out of your comfort zone to plan something fun for yourself or meet up with friends and family, but finding ways to connect to your community at this time can be a powerful antidote to isolation.
When you notice symptoms of SAD flare up, practice mindfulness or any type of meditation. This is a great tool to defuse from mental activity and come back into the present moment. Not every thought is useful, in fact, most thoughts merely exist on loops. Observing such loops can help create distance from the grip and impact they have over you.
If you find that implementing tools by yourself is challenging or if you need extra support during the winter, ask for help! There are many counsellors out there who specialize in Seasonal Affective Disorder and can skillfully support you in your journey.
If none of the recommended tools are helping you, talk to your primary doctor and explore other plausible causes. Medication, especially SSRI’s are also very useful in regulating symptoms if you choose to go that route. Remember that SAD is a treatable condition and you can still enjoy the wintertime!
Book an Appointment With a Vancouver Counsellor to Manage Depression
If you are struggling with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in Vancouver, seeking the help of a counsellor can be a great way to manage your symptoms. SAD is a type of depression that typically occurs during the fall and winter months when daylight hours are reduced. A Vancouver counsellor can provide support, guidance, and practical strategies to help you cope with the challenges of SAD. They can also help you identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that may be contributing to your depression. Overall, working with a Vancouver counsellor can help you feel more empowered and in control of your mental health, and ultimately improve your quality of life.
Book a discovery call and get matched with an experienced Counsellor in Vancouver, today.
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