Seasonal Affective Disorder is no longer something the psychiatric community recognizes as a “real” diagnosis. In previous editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual we had this diagnosis. It represented the portion of the population who feels depression in dark, cold months. It was supposed it existed from a lack of sunshine and outdoor activity. Now there is still an understanding that these factors contribute to feelings of depressed mood. It is a consideration therapists and psychiatrists make when diagnosing depression.
Kimberly Hayes has kindly written a guest blog post on this topic for you to better understand what it is, what it feels like, and a few things you can do about it. Just so you know a little bit about who she is:
Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns.
Winter Wellness Tips: Staying Healthy When You’re Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Winter can be a difficult time for many people; across most of the US, it’s a cold, bleak season that strips the greenery bare and doesn’t offer much sunshine. Because of this, many people find themselves suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. This disorder is often accompanied by feelings associated with depression and can have a profound effect on your ability to function at work or school, as well as keep you from enjoying yourself with friends or loved ones. There are many causes where SAD is concerned, but thankfully, there are just as many ways to help relieve those feelings. So, how do you find a way to stay physically and mentally well when winter rolls around?
There are many ways to care for yourself. For example, taking care of your gut health can promote positive mental health, as well as keep you feeling good physically, while getting some sunlight can boost your vitamin D exposure and lift your mood. You can also create a good diet and exercise routine to keep confidence and self-esteem balanced.
Keep reading for some great tips on how to stay well this winter.
Keep Your Gut in Check
Many people don’t realize how much their gut health affects them, both physically and mentally, but it’s important to make sure you’re eating the right foods and exercising daily to keep your digestion on track. You can also make an effort to get as much sunlight as possible, as this can help to boost serotonin production — a hormone that impacts your mood and energy levels. Open the curtains on sunny days and use natural light as often as you can, or step outside on your lunch break and soak up some rays. This is important during the winter, as the days are shorter.
Boost Your Energy Levels
Many people who are living with SAD find that they don’t have much energy during the winter months, which can leave them feeling inadequate at home or at work. You might start exercising daily, or look for a supplement that can help. There are many energy supplements on the market today that can help you feel better even during the slow winter months, but it’s important to find the right one for your needs. Some are based more in the physical, while others help you take care of your mental health at the same time. Look for a supplement that will focus on the things you need to take care of, and talk to your doctor before starting a new regimen.
Focus on Your Mental Health
There are several ways you can focus on boosting your mental health when cold weather seeps in, including journaling, keeping an active social life, and spending time outdoors when the days are nice. You can also try picking up a new hobby, such as painting or learning a new language, which will help keep your mind occupied until spring.
One of the keys to getting through any difficult time is finding support in a friend, family member, or support group. Look for an online group that you can attend from home; this can help to relieve anxiety and will allow you to get through the season with relative ease.
Staying well when you have a condition like seasonal affective disorder can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal. Creating a good plan for your physical and mental well-being will help you stay on top of things even when you feel the least motivated.
Thank you Kimberly for your insightful thoughts on seasonal depression. We appreciate you writing this for us.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT