The approach of fall and winter means lots of different things for different people. Some people are anticipating a busy season at their jobs, for example, while others are starting to mental plan the holiday season. For some people, however, the start of fall and winter means feeling miserable until it gets warm again.
It’s not just you– seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (often abbreviated as SAD) is a recognized mental health condition that’s actually not that uncommon. There’s a lot of theories as to what causes it, including lack of sunlight and increased loneliness during the winter months, but no direct cause has been identified yet. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do about seasonal depression! There are lots of actions you can take to help yourself feel better, and now that it’s fall, it’s time to start making preparations. Here are some things you can do to help yourself keep ahead of seasonal depression.
Prepare in Fall
Although each case is different, and some people even get seasonal depression during the summer, it’s very common for the worst of seasonal depression to take place during the depths of winter. This means that now, during autumn, is a good time to start preparing for the hard days that you know are coming.
This can mean things like setting up regular meetings with a group of friends or a club to give you an excuse to get out of the house, or preparing meals to keep in the freezer for days when you don’t have the will to cook. You know what your seasonal depression looks like better than anyone, so find ways to prepare now that will help you later!
Depression of all kinds can affect the appetite, making it hard to eat, making you overeat, or making you crave foods that aren’t good for you. As difficult as it is, putting the effort into eating lots of nutritious foods can make a big difference in how you feel overall, especially when you’re dealing with something like seasonal depression.
Getting plenty of fruits and vegetables is especially important when coping with SAD, which has some correlations with certain vitamin deficiencies, and trying to stay away from refined sugars and alcohol in large quantities can help you as well.
Lack of sunlight in winter has a lot of negative effects that are linked with seasonal depression, like disrupted circadian rhythms, vitamin D deficiencies, and problems with serotonin, or the “happy” chemical of the brain. Since there’s obviously not much you can do to make the sun stay up longer during the short winter days, light therapy is a common treatment for SAD.
You can get a light therapy lamp online fairly easily, and sitting in front of one while you work, read, or do other things for a set period of time each day can help you to feel happier and more energized, as well as sleep better at night. Just follow the same rules of the light that you do with caffeine– avoid it in the later afternoon unless you want to be up all night!
Everyone knows that it would be good for their health to exercise more, but especially in the case of seasonal depression, physical activity is especially crucial. Even a short walk can help to boost endorphins to help your mood, use up energy so that it’s easier to sleep at night, and help you to feel more energized during the day.
Whenever you’re able, take your exercise outdoors to get the benefits of fresh air and some sunshine. However, if it’s cold and snowy out, you can still get a good workout inside, even if it’s just some yoga! Regular exercise can really do great things for your mental health.
Consider Getting Help
When it comes to depression, you never have to feel like you’re going through it alone. Speaking to a doctor, therapist, or other healthcare professional can help get you on the path to some treatment options that really help you. If you’re interested in seeing a board certified physician at no extra charge and getting access to new depression treatments, you might be interested in our depression study!