Seasonal Affective Disorder Self Care

Self Care Ideas That Will Make Winter Way More Bearable


Self-care is important year-round. But when the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, self-care is even more critical. Anecdotally, we know that winter brings some additional challenges to our mental health. And although suicide rates actually decrease during the winter, the season does see a slight increase in rates of depression. This type of depression, that appears at the beginning of winter and subsides at the beginning of spring, is known as seasonal affective disorder and affects approximately 5% of the population.

No matter what your mental health looks like, here are 15 self-care ideas to make the season a little bit more manageable. Remember, these are only suggestions. If you find yourself seriously struggling to function during the winter, talk to a medical professional about your options. You can also reach out to a volunteer Crisis Counselor by texting 741741.

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Bake some sweet seasonal treats. Cookies, pies, muffins anything that that is warm and reminiscent of your grandparents house.

Choose a new favorite piece of winter clothing. Stock up on scarves, gloves, or fuzzy socks that you can wear under your boots. Ideally, the softer the better.

Try out new winter recipes. Soups, paninis, chillis any food that helps warm you from the inside out.

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Confirming A Sad Diagnosis

To diagnose SAD, your doctor will look to see if your depression has a seasonal pattern, starting at a similar time of year for at least 2 years in a row.

In the US, depression is usually assessed using a questionnaire called the PHQ-9. If you score more than 20, this is classed as severe depression. If you score below 20, this is classed as mild to moderate depression.

Who Is At Risk For Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is more common in younger people and women. Youre also at higher risk if you:

  • Have another mood disorder, such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder.
  • Have relatives with SAD or other forms of depression or mental health conditions, such as major depression or schizophrenia.
  • Live at latitudes far north or far south from the equator. Theres less sunlight during the winter at these latitudes.
  • Live in cloudy regions.

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Check Something Off Your Bucket List

Even though you may feel like everything is pointless when living with Seasonal Affective Disorder, try to check something off your bucket list. Something that you have always wanted to experience. This will help you jumpstart your mind to get out of the dark thoughts and back into your physical space as you strive for what you dream of.

Mind Over Weather: Making The Most Of Winter

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A Scandinavian proverb advises, Theres no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. In other words, proper preparation and a can-do attitude have a huge impact on our experience of winter.

Scott P. first noticed his seasonal mood pattern in his late teens, when the New Jersey native started college in Syracuse, New York, where the winters are bleak. In October, Id start to crave different foods, sleep more, put on weight and get the sads, he says. He credits lifestyle adjustments with turning things around. Over time, the extremes have moved toward the center. Daily exercise and keeping social as well as midwinter vacations south all help my mental outlook.

So this winter, keep in mind what you love about the season a steaming cup of cocoa, sledding with the kids, the aroma of pine wreaths. A warm heart is a powerful antidote to the cold.

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Why Do People Get Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder may be triggered by biological changes in response to decreased daylight. Levels of melatonin, a naturally produced hormone that assists in sleep and mood, typically fluctuates throughout the day. It increases in times of darkness and decreases in times of light, shifting as the days shorten. As the amount of daylight shifts, our circadian rhythm can be disrupted. Levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that promotes feelings of happiness and contentment, have also been shown to drop in response to decreased sunlight, which can lead to feelings of fatigue and sadness.

There are also many individual factors that can contribute to developing Seasonal Affective Disorder, including a family history of depression, a pre-existing diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder, gender , age , low levels of Vitamin D, and distance from the equator .

Brighten Up Your Environment

If you work indoors, try to let as much sunlight into your working environment as possible. Open any curtains or blinds and sit by a window if you can.

As well as making your environment bright, you could also try bringing the outside world in with some indoor plants to help you feel a bit closer to nature.

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What Can You Do About Seasonal Affective Disorder

The first step is to meet with your Primary Care provider to rule out any physical health concerns, complete indicated lab testing, and discuss treatment options such as medication, psychotherapy and light therapy. Medication may be useful as a means of altering contributing brain chemistry, and psychotherapy can help individuals with SAD to create healthy routines, challenge and shift negative thought patterns, and gain positive coping skills to manage their symptoms. Light therapy , consists of spending time at the beginning of the day in front of a light box that replicates natural light, and appears to help create shifts in mood. The use of light therapy should be discussed with your provider, since it could have adverse effects for some diagnoses, including Bipolar 1 and 2.

Tip : Take Steps To Deal With Stress

Seasonal Affective Disorder, Light Therapy and CBT

Whatever the time of year, too much stress can exacerbate or even trigger depression.

Figure out the things in your life that stress you out, such as work overload or unsupportive relationships, and make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.

Practicing daily relaxation techniques can help you manage stress, reduce negative emotions such as anger and fear, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.

Do something you enjoy every day. While you cant force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can push yourself to do things, even when you dont feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once youre out and about. Having fun is a great stress buster, so make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be painting, playing the piano, working on your car, or simply hanging out with friends.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Sad

There are two types of SAD:

  • Fall-onset.This is also called “winter depression.” Symptoms of depression begin in the late fall to early winter months and ease during the summer months.

  • Spring-onset.This is also called “summer depression.” Symptoms of depression begin in late spring to early summer. This type is much less common.

  • The following are the most common symptoms of SAD:

    • Increased sleep and daytime drowsiness

    • Loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed

    • Social withdrawal and increased sensitivity to rejection

    • Irritability and anxiety

    • Physical problems, such as headaches

    Symptoms tend to come back and then improve at about the same times every year.

    The symptoms of SAD may look like other mental health conditions. Always see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

    Who Gets Seasonal Depression

    Women are about 3 times more likely to get SAD than men though we dont know why this is.

    There are also some other things that may mean youre more likely to be affected:

    • symptoms usually start between the ages of 20 and 30 SAD is less likely to happen as you get older
    • it sometimes runs in families its thought that genes may play a part, although this isnt understood
    • 1 theory is that youre more likely to have SAD the further you live from the equator, and less likely to have it if you live close to the equator, where the hours of sunlight are more constant and bright throughout the year. For example, if you live in Alaska or New England, you may be more likely to get SAD than people who live in Florida. However other studies have found the distance from the equator doesnt make a difference and some people get SAD in the summer, too
    • youre more likely to get SAD if you have a major depressive disorder or

    Its also worth noting that 1 study found that around 60% of people with SAD who joined research trials had never been treated for depression possibly because they thought their feelings were normal.

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    Plan For Difficult Times

    If you’ve noticed your symptoms follow a pattern, you may be able to work out when they’re most likely to start in the future. This may help you put things in place for those times.

    For example, you could:

    • Re-arrange stressful activities or events for another time.
    • Plan relaxing activities that might help improve your mood.
    • Plan ahead, such as stocking up on things you need.
    • Make more spare time to rest or do things you enjoy.
    • Create a self-care box.

    December is dark but the festive lights and cheerfulness are an antidote. I now put up my Christmas decorations really early as a way of coping with my SAD symptoms and stretching out the ‘fairy-lights antidote’ for a whole month.

    When Should I Go To The Emergency Room

    Positively Present

    If you or a loved one has suicidal thoughts, get help. Call your provider, go to an emergency room, call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800.273.8255. This national network of local crisis centers provides free, confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Its available 24/7.

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    How Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated

    Your provider will talk to you about treatment options. You may need a combination of treatments, including:

    • Light therapy: Bright light therapy, using a special lamp, can help treat SAD.
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy :CBT is a type of talk therapy. Research has shown it effectively treats SAD, producing the longest-lasting effects of any treatment approach.
    • Antidepressant medication: Sometimes, providers recommend medication for depression, either alone or with light therapy.
    • Spending time outdoors: Getting more sunlight can help improve your symptoms. Try to get out during the day. Also, increase the amount of sunlight that enters your home or office.
    • Vitamin D: A vitamin D supplement may help improve your symptoms.

    Five Easy Ways To Practice Self

    1.Invest in a light lamp The bright light in the SAD lamp hits the retina and sends nerve signals to the brain, affecting the serotonin and hormone levels. In turn, this improves the mood of the sufferer.

    This is such a simple and worthwhile investment. It really works. Some light lamps are portable and can be transported to the office or used at home.

    If youre working at home this winter and if youre someone whos susceptible to SAD, alongside using a light lamp, make sure you set up your desk near to the window so you can also get as much natural exposure to light as possible.

    2.Make exercise a priority It is proven that regular exercise can reduce anxiety and depression. It helps release endorphins, a chemical that makes you feel happy and excited. Regular exercise can reduces stress, improve memory and sleep and give you a more optimistic spirit.

    And for those of you who struggle to get outside to exercise when its darker and colder , a tip for home workers this autumn is to get dressed in the morning in your workout clothes already having a mindset that exercise will be part of your day.

    Or make a date to workout with someone, whether for an online workout or for a brisk walk or run outside. Youll be less likely to back out this way and your wellbeing will also benefit from the social interaction. Especially if youre at home working alone.

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    Combat The Winter Blues With These 15 Self

    This is a great list of self-care tips for winter blues to keep on hand and add to as you go through down times during the winter season. Take what works for you to fight those winter blues and leave the things that dont.

    Everyone is different find the self-care tips for winter that work best for you!

    When To Seek Professional Help

    Feeling the winter blues? Doctor shares self-care tips for seasonal affective disorder

    Professional treatment is critical for all forms of major depression. This is the only way to:

    • Receive an accurate diagnosis
    • Gain access to effective medication and therapy
    • Maximize your chances of recovering your sense of wellness

    If you suspect you are affected by SAD, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. This conversation will help start the process that leads to an accurate diagnosis. Doctors may diagnose you on their own. They may also refer you to someone who specializes in depression treatment like our facility at Emerald Isle Health & Recovery.

    Unfortunately, SAD is overlooked or misdiagnosed far too often. To avoid this possibility, you may want to start by talking to an experienced mental health specialist. Trained specialists know how to spot even relatively subtle symptoms of the disorder. They also know how to eliminate other potential diagnoses and focus on what is really happening in your case.

    In some cases, emergency help is needed for people with SAD and other forms of depression. As a rule, this occurs when the affected person is:

    • Thinking about suicide
    • In immediate danger of attempting suicide

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    Get Help When You Need It

    Finally, the best thing people living with Seasonal Affective Disorder can do is reach out for professional help when they need it. Seasonal Affective Disorder self care tips may not be the only thing you need to overcome symptomsand thats ok! You dont have to suffer alone. And, therapy can help to give you the tools you need to manage and overcome symptoms of depressive disorders, including SAD.

    Delray Center for Healing is an outpatient mental health facility in South Florida that helps people dealing with various mental health issues, including depressive disorders like SAD. Learn more about our available services and reach out to us for more information about how we can help.

    Virtually Connect With Family Friends And The Community

    Being away from your family during the holidays can be hard, which is why its so important to connect with them through social media, group texts, FaceTime, etc. Sure, its not the same as being with your loved ones in-person while carving a turkey or sipping Champagne when the clock strikes midnight. Still, virtual vid-chatting will make you feel connected to the important people in your life when you need them most. As a traveling home health nurse participating in a bowling league or volunteering as a coach is hard when your demanding job can take you away from those activities. Yet, those outings are crucial for your mental health, especially during those months when SAD is prevalent. They keep you connected with other people and engage your brain, preventing you from idling in your free time and getting too consumed by your work. Fortunately, there are remote volunteering opportunities and online activities out there you can sign up for to stay connected and engaged.

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    How To Prevent And Treat Sad

    If youve experienced SAD in the past, have a history of depression or depressive disorders, or have experienced increased stresses and major life changes, Dayry Hulkow, primary therapist at Vista Pines Health, a Delphi Behavioral Health Group facility, says to make practicing self-care a priority this fall.

    Emotional disturbances may or may not always be prevented. However, there are many preventive measures that can help safeguard our mental health and well-being. Things such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep are always important aspects of daily self-care practices, he said.

    Hulkow added that maintaining meaningful connections with close family and friends can help prevent or minimize the prevalence of SAD, as well as other mental health conditions.

    Mental Health America states that increasing your amount of light at home, spending more time outside, and visiting climates that have more sun are also forms of prevention.

    When it comes to preventive measures, Psychotherapist and founder of Cultureminds Therapy Sharnade George says to think of preparation like you might for the flu season.

    Before the winter seasons, we normally buy our medicines or natural resources and prepare ourselves to take extra care of our immune system so when winter arrives, we already have taken the right safety measures to prevent any flu or cold. This can also be implemented for people who suffer with SAD ensuring relate to their symptoms, she said.

    Symptoms And Signs Of Sads

    How to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

    The core symptoms of SAD are more or less identical to those of classic major depression. They include things such as:

    • Daily feelings of depression or deep sadness
    • Low energy levels
    • Unexplained feelings of agitation or sluggishness
    • Problems thinking straight or concentrating
    • A loss of interest in things you normally like to do
    • Strong, negative feelings such as guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness
    • Recurring thoughts of suicide or dying in general

    Each subtype of SAD also has its own additional telltale signs or symptoms. For the disorderĂ¢s winter-pattern form, these indicators can include:

    • Excessive sleeping
    • Weight gain triggered by the overeating of carbs and other foods
    • An increasing tendency to withdraw from social contact

    Signs and symptoms associated with summer-pattern SAD include:

    • Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
    • Weight loss triggered by a drop in your typical appetite
    • Unusual feelings of agitation and/or restlessness
    • Uncharacteristic bouts of violent behavior

    There is also a time-based aspect to a diagnosis of SAD. Whether it occurs in fall/winter or spring/summer, you must experience symptoms two or more years in a row.

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