6 Effective Strategies for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder During the Winter

As we get into the depths of the winter months, many of us may begin to feel a little “blue.” For most, this is just a fleeting feeling, but for others, it’s more severe. It’s called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, for short. Seasonal depression tends to affect someone the most during the wintertime, according to psychotherapist Malin McKinley.

McKinley points out that SAD is caused by a decrease in both daylight and sunlight, leading to biochemical imbalances in the brain. This can lead to symptoms such as a lack of energy, hypersomnia (or too much sleeping), and even suicidal ideation. For the roughly 10 million Americans affected by SAD, including many in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and the Northeast, it’s more than just a case of the “winter blues.” And worse, women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men, researchers at Boston University say.

One thing to know though, is that SAD isn’t limited to the winter months. The disorder can be experienced at any point in the year, with many experiencing its polar opposite in spring and early summer — a manic phase when the days are longer. It’s a terrible cycle often cyclical in nature, making it difficult to break out of.

How can it be treated? Though antidepressants and even light therapy are advised to treat the disorder, they are only part of the solution. According to New York therapist Amy Cirbus, you need a routine that gets you past the depressive symptoms. Ensure that you get activities during the day and find your triggers so you can avoid the situations that make you feel down. Light therapy can also play a major role in addressing SAD. Sunlight exposure affects the body’s ability to produce the right hormones and has a big impact on mental health overall. And don’t forget to get enough vitamin D — it’s essential.

As the cold nights draw in, it’s essential to keep your mental health at its best. Eat healthily, exercise, and connect with loved ones. If you think your SAD is seriously hindering your ability to get through the day, focus on work and maintain relationships, then see a licensed health care provider. And if that’s not an option for you, there are now plenty of therapy apps that match you with a therapist based on your answers to a questionnaire. And although talking to a professional is highly encouraged, there are alternative ways that can boost your mental health without therapy.

Finally, it’s important that if you have negative thoughts or any symptoms, please seek help immediately. if you are located in the US, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text CONNECT to 741741. In the UK, you can call the Samaritans at 116 123. In Australia, call Lifeline at 13 11 14 for crisis support. And for additional help, you can contact the following 13 suicide and crisis hotlines. Give it a try. Your life is always worth it!

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