What is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), “is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
Seasonal depression occurs in climates that experience all four seasons and tends to run from late fall to early spring. However, this can vary depending on the person. With days being shorter and colder, people tend to spend more time inside and become less active. This can lead to symptoms such as, depression, oversleeping, social withdrawal, anxiety and irritability. While this is not a comprehensive list, these are few of the common signs that someone has SAD.
Why Do People Have Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal depression directly corelates with the changes in seasons. This is unlikely to happen to those who live in warm climates, such as the Caribbean, Southern California and the Maldives. However, living in a place where seasons change and daylight hours drastically change as a result of day light savings, can impact your mood or even lead to severe depression.
In the winter months, especially for those who work full time, the sun is usually set before work ends. It feels like there is less time in the day and paired with the chillier weather, people are less likely to want to go out in the evenings. You probably spend a lot more time outside in the warmer months, just to feel cooped up, especially in January and February.
The further north you travel, the less and less sunlight is available. For instance, places such as Iceland are dark for most of the day. Unfortunately, living in these types of cold dark winter climates also leads to higher drinking problems. While not everyone who lives in these climates’ experiences seasonal depression, many people do. It’s not uncommon and it usually begins to occur as a young adult.
What’s Special About Summer?
If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen a lot of amazing pictures during the summer. People are having outdoor parities, visiting amusement parks, going on vacation, swimming in the ocean and more. In summer, it stays light out very late. People stay out later and enjoy themselves on restaurant patios or outdoor concerts, even on weeknights.
The constant sunlight mixed with the warm weather correlates with people spending less time indoors. Most people plan summer vacations and more events this time of year. People are more active, want to be outside and have higher rates of socialization than in the winter.
How to Combat Seasonal Depression
Below, please find a few ways to help with seasonal depression. If you have other tips, please let us know in the comments.
1. Move to a Warmer Climate
Not everyone can afford to move, especially with rising costs of living globally. However, if your job is flexible and you have the means, moving to a warmer climate can help your seasonal depression. If you can’t move permanently, consider the worst month of the year for you and see if you can rent a place in a warmer climate for a smaller period of time. This can at least get you out of town.
2. Find a Therapist or a Medical Professional
Finding a therapist experienced with SAD can help you through the winter months. Whether you just need to talk to someone or want suggested treatments, working with a professional might be necessary if you feel down every year. They can help you navigate SAD and suggest the best course of action for your specific symptoms.
3. Prepare for the Changes in Seasons
Mentally preparing yourself to transition to fall/winter can help. Understanding when the change in mood happens can help you prepare for it each year and try to find some ways to make you feel more relaxed. Whether it’s finding a trusted friend to talk to or making your house cozier, learn what’s right for you. Also, finding ways to reduce stress in your life can also play a factor. After a long day and with dark cold weather, what would help you relax? Maybe it’s a meal from your favorite restaurant delivered or a warm cup of tea. Learning what works for you is an important step.
4. Consider Light Therapy
Light therapy can mimic the bright beams of sunlight in your home during the winter months. Places such as Amazon and CVS sell these for reasonable prices. We decided to check out a few and read the comments to see how well they work. Many of the commenters have SAD and swear by the extra light to feel happier and more productive. Especially during the pandemic when winter meant a lot of social isolation, the light tool has been more impactful.
5. Take Vitamins, Especially Vitamin D
Part of a lack of sunlight in the winter can lead to vitamin D deficiency. While taking vitamins is recommended year-round, consider taking the time to get a vitamin D supplement when you don’t experience it naturally. There are more options now than ever, with vitamin D coming in tablet and gummy form. We prefer gummies!
While vitamin D can’t magically make you happy, it can help with the symptoms. However, if you have severe SAD, please go back to number two and consider consulting a medical professional.